These two student dormitories – a courtyard building in the forest and a highrise with a climbing wall – stand on the campus of Enschede university in the east of the Netherlands. Thanks to a functional mix of housing, study and leisure and the arrangement of the buildings as solitaires in the landscape, the university compound from the 1950ies is one of the few real campuses in the Netherlands.
According to a new masterplan, the dorms were originally meant to be built next to a new straight aisle through the forest. In order to avoid this interference with the landscape, we looked for alternative sites and found two more or less abandoned parking lots in strategic locations.
chaos and order: courtyard building in the forest
On the northern parking lot, we realized a courtyard building with 152 studios. Originally, part of the site was occupied by a supermarket, around which the new building had to be designed. By now the supermarket has been demolished and re-established on the ground floor of the other student dorm. What remains is a „phantom shape“: a setback in the rectangular volume of the building, which serves as a forecourt and marks the entrance. Behind it lies a big interior courtyard, transected by a footpath that forms an extension of a former shooting range in the forest.
Student dorms usually don’t look too tidy, and their inhabitants tend to take possession of the adjoining public space. Therefore the block was placed as close as possible to the forest, leaving no outside space where to dump beer crates, sofas, laundry racks or the like. In exchange, the inhabitants of the 35 square metre studios get the feeling of actually living inside the forest. In the corners of the building, there are bigger studios for couples, and in the „armpit“ of the forecourt, which couldn’t house any studios, there’s a 3-storey community space with a grandstand for watching football matches.
The students can let themselves go in the informal interior courtyard, where all entrances to the studios are situated. Bridges serve as crosslinks and access to the galleries. In order to curb the chaos a bit, the courtyard was furnished with ready-made picknick tables, concrete stools and bike racks. The courtyard façades are clad with fibreboard panels in white and red, with a gradient that becomes darker around the entrance. On the outside, they’re covered in glossy glass panels in two juicy shades of red, which contrast with the green of the forest, but also reflect the trees, letting the building vanish visually when seen from certain angles. Only on the forecourt, where the volume is „cut open“, the façades are made of brick.
The result is a two-faced building: tidy and glossy on the outside, informal and sociable on the inside.