The Ukrainian Catholic University (UCU), located in Lviv, Ukraine is the first Catholic university to be opened in the former Soviet Union, with a mission to provide an open, progressive and democratic learning environment for its students and the surrounding community. The UCU has various goals. It wants to make the university accessible to the public and at the same time serve as a role model for higher education in post-soviet Ukraine, a private university accessible to the public.
The university is currently building a new campus. At the heart of this campus is the Metropolitan Sheptytsky Information Research Center, the first building of its type built in post-Soviet Ukraine. It includes a library for the humanities, academic and research spaces, and public spaces that serve the community.
From an architectural point of view, the term openness plays a major role in the design of the building. This concept is reflected in the barrier-free ground floor of the building. The reading, exhibition and conference areas as well as a café and the university bookshop are located here. The upper levels of the building are more academic in nature, with a predominantly open-stack collection, various reading spaces, quiet study zones and group work rooms. Both the public and academic portions of the building are flexible spaces organized around a vertical atrium space that always affords views out to a beautiful park located adjacent to the campus.
The structure is poured-in-place concrete. The undersides of the concrete slabs are exposed and painted with a reflective white paint to enhance natural daylight. Folded aluminium composite panels, based on the geometric patterning and weaving of traditional Ukrainian embroidery, cover the facades of the bookstack and quiet study areas, controlling for excessive sunlight and giving the building an always changing appearance.
The design task of the Sheptytsky Center came with the opportunity to work with a forward-thinking client in a country where contemporary models of sustainable thinking – those that have become standard in Western Europe - are seldom a part of the overall design process. The technical and social goals of the project were clearly laid out from the very beginning: this was to be a building that would set an example in Ukraine of what can be achieved through innovative technical approaches and holistic design thinking.
The typical active climate requirements of library spaces had to be dealt with, however passive measures were maximized where possible to provide optimal user comfort with minimized energy consumption. These measures include strategic placement of glazing in bookstack areas, passive façade shading systems on fully glazed facades, light re-directing louvers placed in selected windows and extensive green roofing. Triple glazing and LED lighting are also used exclusively throughout the building – a first for a modern building in Ukraine.
This holistic design approach to the Sheptytsky Center sets an example of what can be accomplished in contemporary Ukraine – a socially sustainable project where the social well-being of the users and future generations is enhanced and fully supported through good design.
The Stuttgart-based practice known today as Behnisch Architekten was founded in 1989 under the leadership of Stefan Behnisch. Originally established as a branch office of Günter Behnisch’s practice Behnisch & Partner, it became independent in 1991 and has subsequently developed into an international practice with offices in Stuttgart, Munich, Los Angeles/California (1999 – 2011), and Boston/Massachusetts. These offices are directed by Stefan Behnisch and his partners Robert Hösle (Munich), Robert Matthew Noblett (Boston), Stefan Rappold and Jörg Usinger (Stuttgart). Stefan Behnisch is involved in all three offices.
From the outset, the social dimension of architecture has been a fundamental aspect of the firm’s design philosophy. The search for innovative and sustainable solutions making optimum use of natural resources has produced a rich variety of buildings, each of which responds to specific user requirements and site conditions.