Martin Hülder asks: How can you tell that a metropolis is prepared for the future?
Heider Zeichardt Architects answer: As architects, we imagine daily a city that doesn’t yet exist. We design, redesign, think, rethink, plan and form its future. What kind of places will be needed? How should they appear so inhabitants will happily use them? To be prepared for the future, any city must place particular importance on improvements for younger generations.
Children, teenagers and young adults spend most of their time in educational buildings. No place shapes them more. How might they be built so that open-minded and self-confident people will emerge to positively mold their city, thinking ahead with progressive action? In our work, that question faces us on every scale and at every depth, yet there is no general answer–for each architectural project we have to find a new solution.
Education means to be on the move, to counteract, to exchange. We want to create spaces that facilitate these activities. Spaces that offer a variety of interaction possibilities provide the option to learn together or from one another; they can restructure social arrangements and promote the serendipitous. Such spaces need crossings and knots, sections for quiet and open areas for bustling activity. In our design we wanted to invoke a balance of acceleration and slowing down, seeing and being seen, friction and ease.
To create a central space for communication among students–that was our design task at the now complete main building of GUTech Oman in Muscat. 10,000 students cross the “heart of the campus”, the space designed by Hoehler & Partner LLC, with Lars Heider and Michael Zeichardt as lead architects of the design team. As an additional vertical circulation element, we designed a double spiral ramp sloping in diverging inclines to converge into the wings of curved seating stairs. Several ramps and steps set a slower or more rapid pace, benches invite breaks, galleries are proper for observing, and the arena amplifies performances. To chat and retreat; to pause and stroll, to watch and enact, to have everyday conversation or hold events–all are possible in this environment.
Education means to reinvent oneself, to remain undefined and searching. Therefore, innovative, high-quality spaces are needed. They form creative and motivated students. Unconventional, advanced surroundings nudge people towards honest and horizontal thinking. He who learns in palaces will live in palaces. She who has the right to say in a matter will interfere. The overflow of ordinary educational facilities can be escaped by designing courageously. That’s why great innovation is needed in spaces that will foster a growing identity.
A Hamburg high school commissioned daringly restructured façades. In collaboration with pupils, parents and teachers, we decided to assemble content to be printed on a new glazing, making the exterior far more than typical shade from the sun. The result was a collection of quotations from philosophers, musicians, scientists and politicians. With an interdisciplinary team of graphic designers and thermal building physicists we rasterized the words for transparency and visibility, calculated the resulting sun protection, and finally screen printed and ceramically stoved resistant, pure white paint onto the outer sheet of glass. Aside from energy efficiency, the process resulted in an innovative and participatory approach to the building’s atmosphere. It has become grand, confident and motivated.
Places that change and improve the behavior of users. Places that promote the urge to lively exchange. Designs that enhance and enrich conventional functions and forms. These are what make children, teenagers and young adults become rigorous, questioning, and proactive citizens. Today’s environments will form the students who will shape tomorrow’s societies and cities.
Headerimage: Rendering of amphitheater at GUTech Oman (© Höhler Partner LLC)