November is set to be a tense month as decisions are made on the future of the Aula. Will the iconic building become part of a cinema complex or a venue for political debate like De Balie in Amsterdam?
The Aula and surroundings in 1948. The current parking area next to the Aula used to be a bus station.
The final decision lies with the WUR as owner of the Aula and the former university library building behind it. On Monday 18 November at 19.30, WUR will hold an information evening during which both plans will be presented. The meeting will take place in the Aula of course – the building at the centre of the debate – and the intention is to sound out the opinions of stakeholders and other interested parties.
Important and difficult decisions need to be made. The two developers – BOEi/Van Swaay and the Noordereng Groep – have very different plans for the Aula and its surroundings. BOEi plans to turn the Aula into a cultural centre as part of the new building that the Heerenstraattheater plans to construct next door. Noordereng would like to turn the Aula into a venue for debates on food, peace and security, fitting in with the local context of Food Valley, WUR and Wageningen as the ‘city of liberation’.
Gerben Kuypers, spokesperson for Noordereng Groep, has set his sights high. He would like the Aula to become a centre for debate like De Balie in Amsterdam. In this plan, the former library will be turned into a 42-room hotel providing accommodation for people attending the events. The reading room on the ground floor will become a ‘sitting room’ for year clubs, study associations and PhD students. In the open space between the Aula and the library a glasshouse building will be constructed to house a café-restaurant for the venue.
The BOEi/Van Swaay team have totally different ideas. They have developed four large-scale plans for the property. One of the alternatives will be chosen in the coming month and will then become the contender in the contest with Noordereng’s debating centre. The views and responses of local residents and the general public will be listened to in the decision-making process. Housing, moving the Heerenstraattheater from its current location, and extending Hotel De Wereld are the ingredients in all four plans.
The cinema – consisting of four 50-seat auditoriums – will be located underground in BOEi’s plans, as will the parking space. The amount of housing included in the plans varies from a ten-storey tower block, a block of houses sited where the car park is now, to converting the old library. A building containing 30-35 rooms will be constructed behind the listed Hotel De Wereld.
After both sets of plans have been presented to the audience on 18 November, WUR and Wageningen municipality will cast their vote, with WUR having the final say. So far the two parties have been unable to reach agreement about the development plans. WUR’s preference was for a debating centre, while the municipality opted for the cultural centre. To break the deadlock, both contenders were asked to develop or revise their plans. In response to this BOEi came up with completely new ideas.