Lecture hall building Gorlaeus laboratories Leiden is under renovation

The lecture building of the Gorlaeus laboratories belonging to Leiden University is being renovated into an education and meeting center with work and study spaces, a restaurant and four lecture and event rooms. Civic Architects is responsible for both the architectural and interior design and draws inspiration from the original modernist design.

The Gorlaeus laboratories are a complex of Leiden University in the Leeuwenhoek district outside the historic centre. The complex was built between 1963 and 1971 to a design by Drexhage, Sterkenburg, Bodon & Venstra (DSBV) and houses the Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences.

The complex consists of high-rise buildings with laboratories, low-rise buildings with the faculty library and an auditorium building. The latter building – often referred to as De Schotel – houses one of the largest lecture halls in the Netherlands with 700 seats; the now outdated building will be renovated and will provide space for work and study spaces, a restaurant with 400 seats and four lecture and event rooms with 250 to 700 seats.

The Gorlaeus complex has the typical features of a modernist university building, such as the elevated main level and the glass facades, Civic explains. At the same time, according to the agency, it transcends the usual generic and austere appearance of this style “due to the specific constructive aesthetics and exaggerations in design and detailing.”

Civic has taken this idea of ​​’hyperfunctionalism’ as a starting point for the renewal, where the agency has shifted the emphasis from an autonomous complex to connection: with the environment, the climate and the users, according to Civic. A key intervention is the transformation of the maintenance balconies into a ring of conservatories.

The Civic’s distinctive chamfered exterior inverts the Civic, enhancing the visual relationship between the building and its surroundings. Passers-by no longer mainly see the reflection of the sky in the glass, but rather the reflection of the campus. They can also see better inside because of the changed angle of the glass.

Monumental staircase
There will also be a new entrance staircase connecting the ground floor of the campus directly to the first level. From a distance, the staircase shows a sense of exaggeration in design, similar to the existing concrete structure. Up close, however, small pebbles and a sophisticated milling pattern give the staircase tactility and a human scale.

The outhouse that formed the original entrance to the Gorlaeus complex will be demolished. This increases access to the surrounding buildings within the campus plan, while the new monumental staircase will form the main entrance from the central axis of the campus square, clearly visible and accessible to all. At the same time, the staircase is a residence and meeting place and a tribune for the campus square.

The stairs lead to a panoramic restaurant with work and study spaces on the 1st floor, which can also be used for presentations, conferences and award ceremonies. The stairs connect with a circular corridor that makes the lecture halls accessible in two directions and provides a view of the surroundings. The circular facade reinforces the building’s iconic character.

Winter gardens
DSBV’s facade design works the same everywhere, but reacts differently to the environment and the sun for each segment, says Civic. This inspired the office to make the facade more energetically sustainable. Civic replaces the single-glazed steel frames with a ring of conservatories as a buffer. Each segment develops differently, and the whole thing moves, so to speak, with the rhythm of the days and seasons.

On the south and east sides are a series of passively heated and actively ventilated conservatories with additional lounge areas: a seating area overlooking the campus square and a series of benches connected to the restaurant. There are glass washing balconies with protective covers on the north and west sides. Which also includes the new escape stairs.

Step by step
De Schotel will remain in use during the renovation. The phasing for demolition and construction is therefore linked to municipal planning; a specific implementation method has also been chosen. The 10 meter wide and 6 meter high segments are each assembled on site and suspended as a whole between the existing radial truss structures.

By doing this from the outside, the building can continue to function from the inside. The installations are then carried out in segments, so that only one lecture hall has to be out of service at a time. The renovation is expected to be completed in the second part of 2023; At the same time, Civic is working on the interior.

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