Higher higher learning
Lecture halls at dizzying heights, libraries with glass-domed roofs or crooked seminar rooms with slanting walls – it is not just in the field of learning that universities have plenty to offer, but on an architectural level, too. From the historic Universiteitsbibliotheek KU Leuven of 1928 to the enormous glass sphere of the Philologische Bibliothek in Berlin to Canada’s own Sharp Centre for Design in Toronto: Emporis – http://www.emporis.com/ – the international provider of building data, has compiled a selection of the most spectacular university buildings from around the world.
All students set their sights high, but for the 30,000 enrolled at Lomonosov Moscow State University, this is meant literally as well as figuratively, since their main building, dating from 1953, is the world’s tallest university building at 787 feet in height. Over its 36 storeys it contains everything one could expect from an educational institution, including a 1,500-seat auditorium, seminar rooms, a library, and even a museum. A further example of concentration of knowledge is the Mode Gakuen Cocoon Tower in Tokyo. Completed in 2008, the 669-foot-tall, cocoon-shaped skyscraper is home to no fewer than three different colleges, their teaching rooms offering breathtaking views of the city.
By contrast, the architects of the Swanston Academic Building and the Sharp Centre for Design use colourful elements to set accents. The first catches the eye with its wavy and jagged facade that mirrors the colors of the surrounding buildings. Inside, loud red, green and yellow are the dominant hues. The shape and coloring of the Sharp Centre for Design also represent a distinct contrast to its surroundings: the centre’s black-and-white structure, which is reminiscent of a chessboard, stands on bright stilts and appears to hover above the neighboring buildings.
Perhaps less colorful, but at least as spectacular, is the effect created by Bradfield Hall at Cornell University. The dark-red brick building with its rectangular and round pillars is almost entirely windowless, all of which combines to give it the weighty, massive appearance of a medieval fort. The Graduate Centre of London Metropolitan University and the Run Run Shaw Creative Media Centre in Hong Kong also opt for monochrome facades, in gray and white respectively. Nevertheless, both buildings jump straight out of the landscape: The slanting walls with their narrow window slits seem to positively sink into one another.
Wherever one looks, universities are increasingly setting store by having architectural highlights on campus. By the same token, one by one, chunky relics of the ’60s and ’70s are being torn down. This was recently the case in Frankfurt am Main, with the demolition of the AfETurm. In the largest inner-city controlled blasting Europe has ever seen, the high-rise at the Johann-Wolfgang-Goethe-Universität, dating from 1972, was destroyed in a matter of seconds.
Emporis is a leading database of information about building and construction projects, based in Germany. For over a decade Emporis has helped companies, organizations and individuals stay informed about the building industry. The Emporis Skyscraper Award is the world’s most renowned prize for high-rise architecture.