The latest addition to the University of Applied Sciences (FH Nordwestschweiz) in Muttenz, Switzerland is impressive. A giant cube that is almost 65 metres in length and height, that rises up and catches the eye from far and wide. Designed by pool Architekten, it is a simple and simultaneously monumental construction. And one that is purely devoted to education and research. Zurich based Reflexion and Zumtobel joined forces to engineer a new luminaire for this extraordinary building called the FREELINE. Now more than 13 kilometres of this clever solution have been delicately woven into the imposing architecture.
Flanked by a tree-lined park and with an extensive forecourt, the cube looms over the neighbouring railway tracks. The copper-coloured facade glows in the sun. And inside, two spectacular atria offer stunning views up to the sky – all framed by powerful, yet uncomplicated, architecture. There is hustle and bustle everywhere as around 4000 students and 840 employees come here every day to study, teach, or to carry out research.
“The architecture of the new building is extremely rigorous and has a strong graphic quality,” reported Thomas Mika, Managing Director of Reflexion, and the person responsible for the lighting concept of the university building. “So we opted to integrate all the luminaires as far as possible into the existing elements.”
This emphasises the simplicity of the monumental construction, in which a visible concrete support structure and, in stark contrast, the use of warming wood combine to set the overall tone of the project. Diverse daylight situations generate varied atmospheres and spatial impressions. Ramp-like staircases with a width of almost three metres form an architectural focal point. They traverse the atrium and stretch up to the two auditorium levels on the first and second floors. Almost like sculptures.
Further highlights include the library on the third floor, where a wide band of windows adds structure to the facade, and a roof garden on the 12th floor, where users can enjoy a pleasant green oasis. And it is not just all about the building itself: The unique views of the surrounding area from the office and seminar rooms never fail to make an impression.
“For a project of this size, the lighting concept needs a main layer that connects the different rooms across the entire building and weaves itself into the architecture,” explained Mika. The ribbed concrete ceilings define the office, seminar and laboratory rooms, along with the corridors of the new university building, from the third to the twelfth floor.
Reflexion opted to insert a linear luminaire between each of the ribs, enabling the spaces to be characterised by uniformity in terms of both light density and lighting design. Rather than just a simple two-dimensional band of light, the planners wanted to use contoured three-dimensional illumination to accentuate the architecture and, at the same time, light up the work spaces.