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“Echo” Interdisciplinary Teaching Building

A Crossroads for Knowledge

UNStudio

“Echo” Interdisciplinary Teaching Building
By Michael Webb -

Transparency, flexibility and sustainability are the hallmarks of Echo, a complex of teaching spaces that points the way forward for one of the Netherlands’ top universities. TU Delft is a model campus, outwardly restrained but inwardly vibrant, and that provided the cues for UNStudio’s competition-winning design, developed in collaboration with Arup and BBN building cost consultants. “It is the most unique university building we have done”, says principal Ben van Berkel, “a crossroads where faculty, students and visitors can exchange ideas and knowledge. The future campus needs to be programmed with a series of agile spaces that invite students and faculty to learn, collaborate and co-create”. He likens it to the Amsterdam headquarters of Booking.com that the firm is currently building: a workplace where everyone feels at home.

All over the world, educators are being challenged to meet the rapidly shifting demands of society and the growing activism of students in shaping every aspect of their lives and environment. Ancient universities all over Europe struggle to perform these tasks in buildings that are often centuries old and were designed for a radically different approach to pedagogy. Now the pace of change is so rapid that buildings may become outdated in decades. Universities need to be at once repositories of learning and crucibles of experimentation, constantly seeking new ways to impart old truths, while questioning conventional wisdom. It is a challenge that UNStudio has fully embraced in this and other recent projects.

Echo, named by the university for the conversations that will echo through its halls, is a three-level, 8,850-sq. m block. There is a horseshoe-shaped debating chamber and a cafeteria at one end, and a 700-seat fan shaped lecture hall at the other, with a central stair winding up to a large mixed didactic space on the first floor and 300 solo or group study spaces on the second...

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