Built on a former industrial site of Esch-sur-Alzette, the campus of the University of Luxemburg Faculty of Sciences is laid out over the remains of the old steelworks, dominated by its blast furnaces.
Existing facilities are characterized by the minerality of their public spaces which are not very inviting for outdoor activities. The landscape surrounding this now very urban ensemble offers far-reaching views of the beautiful countryside.
The IHA office, seeking to echo this unique and complex location, decided to create places of heightened intensity encouraging more active involvement with the site and providing a wider variety of visual and physical experiences. The site is approached three-dimensionally in response to the monumental scale of the industrial buildings of the former smelter, the density of the campus and the requirements of the program.
Usable structures serving as a belvedere are placed on three sides of the site. Each one has its unique typology and program and together they complete the master plan for the campus whose construction is as yet unfinished. Their placement and openness, frame the entrances and encourage pedestrian cross traffic.
Though purposely spaced far apart, these structures are nevertheless connected to each other. Positioned along an extended axis crossing the site, or close to a building on piles, they are accessible from the periphery of the campus but also by passing through its interior. This dual approach is made possible thanks to the skillful work on their depths and their transparent upper sections encourage movement and mobility. They facilitate the conditions that encourage exchanges, which are often difficult to create on a university campus.
The powerful relations and locations of these public belvedere-supporting aedicules concentrate and distribute campus activities and flows. They also provide public spaces made available up above, their height corresponding to the concrete platforms of the blast furnaces, raised to 12 meters.
This privileged situation enables visitors to grasp the overall quality of the site and to gaze upon these enormous buildings from a different perspective. In fact, these vertical structures provide a rare opportunity to evade the public space while also remaining inside, and linked with other people. They introduce possibilities of brief moments of isolation conducive to feeling and grasping the gigantism of this reprogrammed and reactivated industrial site.
In the intermediate position of the second level, users first gain awareness of the natural ground they are leaving to gradually rise up to the same level as the platform of the industrial monuments. Thus, they pass through different layers of uses and landscape, experiencing extremely varied visual sequences ranging from close-up views to views of the surrounding slopes far into the distance.
Belvederes, footbridges, arcades, stairs and alcoves offer a broad range of situations for experiencing the interiors of these structures. Exposed to the climate, lengthwise they create empty, semi-open mezzanine spaces of diverse qualities and uses. There are a number of areas for sitting, equipped with benches with backs, which enable visitors to really inhabit these places, relaxing out in the open, gathering and sharing, while still being protected.
The different typologies associated with these structures allow for different uses. Two of them have already been built.
The first is concentrated and quite deep in form. Close to a pond, it contains a little restaurant space on the ground floor and surrounds a garden. Sheltered from the wind, it stands right on the existing ground, being an extension of this level while marking a difference in surface. Its upper levels are for strolling, tranquility, meeting, and practicing sports. Offering quite varied views of the sky, its proportions also facilitate the installation of an outdoor movie screen.
A second long structure is located close to the main entrance to the site. It is designed for displaying information but can also contain areas for seating and groups of people.
These two easy to appropriate structures are imbued with strong programming power and provide reversible and adaptable uses to meet evolving needs.
Their metal frameworks are built with square-section poles lacquered white forming modules 3.60
m x 3.60 m x 3 meters in height. The generous yet easily identifiable dimension creates a double relationship to scale: the one of the human body and the one of an inhabitable room.
The concrete flooring is an expression the solid materiality of the artificial ground levels and the resin filler elements, lacquered steel guardrail, and stainless steel mesh transform each unit into a qualified and inhabitable space while leaving the stroller out of doors.
Project: Campus of Belval, 2018
Location: Esch-sur-Alzette, Luxembourg
Architect: Inessa Hansch Architecte (IHA)
Lighting: Goblet Lavandier & Associés éclairagistes
Engineer and Consulting: Icone
General Company: Guy Gardula