MetaForum, Eindhoven University of Technology
EHA transformed the old W-hal complex at Eindhoven University of Technology into a modern new main building. It now houses the university library, lecture rooms, catering facilities, service desks and offices, and provides lots of room for studying. The conversion includes an entirely new building above the original one that is now home to the Faculty of Mathematics and Computer Science. Upon reopening, MetaForum was immediately adopted as the university’s unofficial living room, by students and staff alike. It went on to win the Gulden Feniks (Golden Phoenix) for Best Transformation and has been designated a national monument.
Client: TU Eindhoven, Dienst huisvesting
Architect: Ector Hoogstad Architecten
Delivery: Summer 2012
Client consultant and building management: HEVO
Construction consultant: ABT
Consultant installations and building physics: Nelissen Ingenieursbureau
Contractor: Hurks Bouw Zuid
Building services: Imtech
Contractor façade renovation: Oskomera Projecten
Photography: Petra Appelhof, Bart van Overbeeke
Focal point on campus
The original W-hal was one of the university’s oldest buildings. It was designed by architect Jacques Choisy in the second half of the 1950s as a hectare of multipurpose space for machinery and experiments. Choisy’s clever structural design included a “checkerboard-patterned roof” with raised and lowered sections that made the building an instant landmark. This, in combination with the glazed façade, allowed an abundance of natural light into the furthest corners of the building.
To meet the demands of its growing student body, the university conceived a masterplan that entails the densification of the campus around a central green space. The W-hal was always the focal point on campus, which led it to become the most important traffic hub in the university’s unique system of raised walkways. Due to the digitalisation of daily life, the original building had lost its function. However, the building’s central position on campus was key in deciding to redevelop it into a modern day cluster of facilities
The original complex was ingeniously designed, built from simple materials and incredibly spacious. We conceived our own design along the same lines. With little more than wood and corrugated steel cladding, we were able to create a spectacular new complex with mezzanines and amazing views. And yet the building doesn’t call attention to itself; instead, it makes those who use it the star attraction. Visit on any day of the week and there’ll be students and university staff reading quietly, strolling around, enjoying a cup of coffee or chatting with friends.
The southern part of the complex, which overlaps the new “green carpet”, has been opened up to form a covered events plaza that serves as the new venue for the TU/e community’s performances, parties and concerts. This function was in fact the inspiration for the name “MetaForum”, which was chosen from a poll organised for the naming. The northern part of the complex contains offices, while the part in the middle offers a library, media centre, reading room and student support centre. Everything is openly connected and accessible from the first floor, which continues to function as the main intersection of the TU/e — connecting the complex with the surrounding buildings — thanks to pre-existing and new walkways.
A staircase with panoramic views takes you to the newly built structure housing the Faculty of Mathematics and Computer Science. Or enter via the first floor and descend into the library, now larger than the previous one following the addition of a basement. Walkways and sight lines operate in concert to emphasise MetaForum’s function as a central meeting place, which was our objective from the outset: create a venue that facilitates interaction and chance meetings, as these are essential components of the synergy that effective and productive knowledge ecosystems revolve around.
The Mathematics and Computer Science building appears to float above the checkerboard roof, a trick of the eye facilitated by twenty slender, steel columns that hold it up and pierce the original structure without ever touching it. The building is organised around a surprisingly spacious central atrium, through which a cascading staircase winds its way. This, too, facilitates contact between users and chance meetings, encourages people to walk through the building instead of taking the lift, and opens up the interior to make users as visible to one another as possible. Throughout the building are places that invite users to socialise, sit and relax with a cup of coffee or stop briefly for a serious discussion. In-built adaptability enables both traditional and open-plan layouts.
The original building has been both renovated and made more sustainable. Regarding the latter, for instance, the original non-insulated façade was restored by means of a system developed specifically for this project, wherein the original steel “chair” profiles were reversibly transformed into a low-maintenance curtain wall that offers as much insulation as a completely new façade, but without altering the original’s appearance.