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Sumit Singhal
Sumit Singhal
Sumit Singhal loves modern architecture. He comes from a family of builders who have built more than 20 projects in the last ten years near Delhi in India. He has recently started writing about the architectural projects that catch his imagination.

Brains Unlimited in Maastricht, Netherlands by Wiegerinck

 
January 24th, 2014 by Sumit Singhal

Article source: Wiegerinck

The Cognitive Neuroscience department at the Maastricht University (Department of Psychology and Neuroscience) expressed its ambition in 2008 to further expand its name in the field of brain research. The department also wished to offer research groups and external parties the possibility of using advanced research facilities.

Image Courtesy © Kim Zwarts

  • Architects: Wiegerinck
  • Project: Brains Unlimited
  • Location: Maastricht, Netherlands
  • Photography: Leon Abraas, Kim Zwarts
  • Client:  Maastricht University
  • Constructor: Arup
  • Advisors: Arup
  • Design outdoor: Poelmans Reesink
  • Design interior:  Wiegerinck architectuur stedenbouw
  • Design: 2009
  • Completion: september 2012
  • Gross area G.A.:  8.248 m² bvo
  • Project cost:  € 8.710.000,- ex BTW
  • Investment cost: confidential
  • Contractor: Van Wijnen Sittard, Siemens Nederland, Cofely, Laudy Bouw en Ontwikkeling

Image Courtesy © Leon Abraas

At Brains Unlimited, scientists, entrepreneurs and clinicians work under one roof, undertaking research into the function of the human brain in order to gain new understanding and to develop clinical applications that can then be commercialised. Brains Unlimited also offers professional education in the field of neurophysics and neuro-imaging and it provides accommodation for spin-off companies in its NeuroPartner Incubator. The results of the research support the development of new treatments, diagnoses and technologies for such diseases as Alzheimer, Parkinson, epilepsy, schizophrenia and MS.

Image Courtesy © Leon Abraas

Brains Unlimited is the first project to be completed at the Maastricht Health Campus. The Health Campus is a valorisation campus where ideas and innovations from scientific research and practical care are developed (further) and clinically tested on-site.

Image Courtesy © Leon Abraas

Design concept
The design is based on an ensemble of building elements in a green inner area. This ensemble of building elements varies in eight and is given an architectural detailing that is expressed in great diversity within a certain degree of coherence. To support the image of City Walls and heterologous development within the walls, the main building is initially segmented into three smaller “modules”. In contrast to the City Walls, these modules are slightly offset from each other, creating an ensemble of smaller building elements.

Image Courtesy © Leon Abraas

The architectural detailing of the building elements is based on the theme of “unity in diversity”. For this purpose, all aspects of the floor tiles are visible like staves and thus form a strong Leitmotiv. As in the game of Dominoes, the last tile put down passes on half of its properties to the next tile and the same method has been adopted with the construction of the different building elements in the ensemble. Each building element takes over part of the previous building element but then adds its own aspects to this so that they still derive their own individual identity from this.

Image Courtesy © Leon Abraas

The southern building block (building element A) accommodates the SLIM Incubator and the central vertical access to the ensemble. The building element has a band structure with an infill. The protruding bands are made from dark-grey prefabricated concrete. The infill material consists of two red enamelled glazing units that are positioned randomly in respect of each other. The frames are made of dark-brown anodised aluminium. Perforated aluminium strips are placed between the bands. These are dark-bronze anodised. The strips act as a vertical sunblind and give the building a certain elegant lightness.

Image Courtesy © Kim Zwarts

The northern block (building element B) accommodates the Department of Psychology. The structure is similar to that of building element A. The building element manifests more towards the garden side and therefore has an infill that is formed by planks of oiled Accoya wood. The vertical strips here are designed in a lighter bronze colour.

Image Courtesy © Kim Zwarts

The entrance to the ensemble is formed by a separate, one-storey building. The building forms the link between the central hall and the Scanner Lab. The entrance building has a reserved, abstract design, consisting of aluminium bands and structural glazing units, jointed together using sealant. In turn, the central hall forms the link between building elements A and B; a joint between the building elements.

Image Courtesy © Kim Zwarts

It is a transparently designed volume consisting of a slender aluminium curtain wall with glass. The reception area and reception function are located in this volume. The physical link between building elements A and B is created using three footbridges, arranged above each other, that keep the transparency of the central hall intact. This hall therefore forms the synergy junction where all blood groups meet each other. The auditorium, espresso bar, reception, education rooms, kitchenettes and sanitary rooms are all incorporated in the hall.

Image Courtesy © Kim Zwarts

Sustainability forms an integral part of the design concept. A number of passive structural measures have been incorporated first. The façade incorporates fixed structural horizontal and vertical sunblinds in order to protect against the direct heat load from the sun on the east, west and south façades. This saves on the cooling capacity required and guarantees an unrestricted view for the user. The choice of a column-free and beam-free span has also been evaluated for lifecycle costs. The other façade materials (glazing and preserved wood) have been selected on the basis of their environmental impact and maintenance requirements. 

Image Courtesy © Kim Zwarts

A number of energy-saving measures have also been incorporated in respect of the systems. These include heat recovery from the MR equipment cooling, CO2-controlled ventilation, natural ventilation, daylight- and motion-controlled lighting, choice of type of lighting sources, Building Management System control for equipment in stand-by mode, etc. A BREEAM-bespoke plan (ambition: BREEAM Very Good) has been instigated for the project with the Dutch Green Building Council. The Very Good score was achieved in the design phase.

Image Courtesy © Kim Zwarts

Design process

The initiation phase for Brains Unlimited came about through collaboration with the European Union, the Province of Limburg, Maastricht University, MUMC+, Siemens, Forschungszentrum Jülich, the university’s property department and the end users. Within its organisation the university appointed a compact core group that remained virtually unchanged from the moment of formulating the vision through to project completion.

Image Courtesy © Kim Zwarts

The core group included end users and the property department. On the basis of vision and experience of complex projects, the design team was selected to be a ‘Total Engineer’ team, which means that it was assigned an extensive role. The design team became responsible for the design from landscaping to fitting out. There was very little change in the client team and in the design team. Personal involvement was essential for monitoring the design concept and the building quality.

Image Courtesy © Kim Zwarts

Design team and contractors
When configuring the project organisation and selecting the consultants and contractors, the university always strived to achieve integration and compactness. Because of its technical complexity the ´Brains Unlimited´ project was split into two sub-projects.

Image Courtesy © Wiegerinck

A European tender resulted in Siemens – as a supplier of state-of-the-art research equipment – being awarded a Design & Build contract for the Scanner Lab. Wiegerinck took care of the design up to the environmental permit level and then remained involved as aesthetic consultant so that the entire project was detailed architecturally as a single ensemble. For the other building elements a call for tenders for the Total Engineer was issued at the same time. Five design teams were requested to present their vision for this project. Wiegerinck formed a compact design team together with Arup. All of the required design disciplines were represented within these two firms.

Image Courtesy © Wiegerinck

The tendering strategy and the associated selection criteria for the contractors were determined during the design process. This resulted in a tender for a single lot and an award of contract on the basis of the Most Economically Beneficial Tender in which price and quality (in the form of planning and action plan) were jointly evaluated. Both the Scanner Lab and the main building were designed by a compact team. Architect, building services consultant, structural engineer and landscape architect worked closely together to arrive at the required building concept. Every last detail was discussed and agreed in order to achieve a strong degree of integration and high level of finish.

The construction processes commenced with a vision presentation by the design team to all of the persons involved in the construction phase of the project. This created support for the high level of requirements with regard to the quality of construction and the detailing. Intensive sessions were also held during the construction phase, during which complete agreement was sough between all aspects of the construction and the contractors.

Image Courtesy © Wiegerinck

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