The reorganisation of the WUR (Wageningen University and Research Centre) has placed all departments and disciplines in a single location: The De Born campus, in Wageningen. Through a European-wide tender several architects were selected to design the new education and research centres. Together with Rafael Viñoly Architects we were selected for the Atlas building, which accommodates the Soil, Water & Climate centres and the Natuurplanbureau (Environmental Assessment Agency).
The master plan for the site’s spatial reorganisation comprised of a built-up circumference that surrounds a green, landscaped central area. A number of new distinct structural elements are freely arranged as separate volumes within the rolling green landscape. When viewed from the outside, the Atlas research centre appears as an abstract, cubic sculpture in the landscape. The sculptural expression was created by placing the main supporting structure outside the building. X-shaped prefab concrete elements, each one storey high, create a transparent network, set 70 centimetres from the glass and aluminium curtain wall. The concrete network supports both the floors of the various storeys and the glass wall. Visitors approach the building via a zigzag ramp that rises gently above the landscape. The building’s ever-changing viewpoint enhances the plasticity of the concrete network. The spatial concept of the building is practical, simple, but at the same time quite spectacular.
The spatial core, a single large void that extends from the first floor right up to the glass roof, is surrounded by seven floors of offices, laboratories, and other functions. Slender steel ramps intersect the void, creating flowing connections between the individual floors. The zone containing facilities such as the stairwell and lift creates a buffer between the gallery that borders the void and the research areas located along the outer walls.