A Study in Organics

Wrapped in an amoeba-shaped double-skin façade, a new media center blends wild forms and bold colors to energize a university campus.

August 01, 2005 |

Designed by the Swiss firm Herzog & de Meuron, the amoeba-shaped building has a wide range of functions. In addition to housing books and other media for Brandenburg Technical University in Cottbus, Germany, it accommodates the campus computer center and multimedia facilities.

The library is similarly heterogeneous in its form. From a distance, it stands out from the otherwise rectilinear structures in the area by virtue of its curved façade. What at first glance may appear to be a random form, however, proves on closer examination to be the outcome of a carefully considered urban concept. Viewed from the side facing the city, the building has the appearance of a slender, freestanding tower—an emblem of the university complex, in a sense. On the side overlooking the campus, the full volume is revealed, evidently firmly rooted in the park.

The glazed double-skin façade is printed on the inside and outside with texts in various languages and typefaces. These are superimposed on each other to such an extent that it is no longer possible to decipher them.

On entering the building, an extensive space in flamboyant colors opens up. The floors slabs are cut back to a different degree on each level, which creates a perceptible tension in conjunction with the continuous, flowing façade.

Two service cores—one green, the other magenta—rise through the internal space. Viewed from the top, the staircase also seems bathed in psychedelic colors. With a diameter of six meters, it provides a place where visitors can take a break and watch what is going on in the ground-floor café.

Alongside the staircase are areas of colorful, low-height shelving that are laid out over the entire length of the building. Adjoining them are reading rooms in gray and white that extend out to the curving façade. Some of these spaces are two or three stories high and convey an impression of openness and ample dimensions. Others are low and small and allow people to withdraw into a more intimate environment.

On the two uppermost floors are carrels where users can study in silence. Books are stored on the two underground levels.

This article originally appeared in our sister publication Detail, a German-based architectural review journal now available in an English version. For a subscription, visit:www.detail.de/english.

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