The low, walk-through, three-storey building is characterized by a slightly angled and partly recessed curtain wall. Light, shadow and changing perspectives give the volume a dynamic plasticity. Roomy entrance areas connect the ground floor with public spaces, forming a flowing transition between city and building.
The building is bounded on the west side by railway tracks and on the east by VonRoll Street, and makes use of all available development land. The only exceptions are the recessed north façade and a distinctive bend in the building on the east side. Both urban planning interventions mark the main entrances to the building – on the north side, access from the railway station, and on the east, the connection to existing buildings of the FHNW campus. The roomy entrance areas of the ground floor are connected to public spaces, creating a flowing transition between city and building, with exterior and interior spaces merging together.
A rhythmical composition of layers, breaks, steps and green areas incorporates differences in height with the surrounding streets, connecting the urban exterior with the interior of the university.
The FHNW is divided horizontally into three layers, growing more compact, concentrated and private towards the top. This concept is reflected both in the way space is apportioned and in the building’s support structure.
Besides this horizontal layering, interior space is characterized by different courtyards. Two and three-storey courtyards alternately penetrate the building, bringing daylight deep into the interior of the FHNW and providing a means of orientation for occupants and visitors.
In contrast with the flowing interior, six involute stairways are arranged, which although connected to the spatial continuum form their own space illuminated from above. The stairways allow direct access between floors and provide shortcuts within the University.
Competition 2007 / Construction period 2009–2013
Client: Kanton Solothurn, Bau- und Justizdepartment, Fachhochschule Nordwestschweiz