The grounds of the white Atrium building, headquarters of Wageningen's agrotechnologists and food scientists, are almost ready. Unusually, the design is the brainchild of three MSc students of Landscape Architecture: Jaap Dirk Tump, Jonas Papenborg and Tim Snippert.
Jaap Dirk: ‘Last year on Liberation Day we were in the pub together and Tim told us there was a design competition for this project. The next day we signed up for it, more as a joke than as a serious plan.'
Jonas: ‘One week later we heard we were the only students to respond. After a nice chat we got the assignment.'
Were there special requirements for the assignment or were you totally free?
Tim: ‘They wanted a new entrance in combination with a social space for staff and students. The entrance of the building was hard to find, so the main thing was to make that visible. And it had to be affordable.'
Jonas: ‘It took us a couple of days to come up with our design idea. This happened in the evenings because we were all doing internships during the day in the west of the country. So we came back to Wageningen to discuss the design and make some drawings. Our first sketches are on the back of beer mats.'
What did you come up with?
Jaap Dirk: ‘A scenic entrance that fits into the whole campus, just like the entrances to other buildings, with wild grasses and flowers.'
Jonas: ‘They chose the simplest of our three designs. It was our own favourite too, because a simple design is often the key to a lively environment. That's why we kept it simple but with clear, fluid lines in the direction of the entrance. We applied the same principle to materials. We chose black bricks for the paving, to contrast with the white building. We used concrete for the edge of the oval sitting area, just as bright as the Atrium.'
Tim: ‘For the plants we made a list of what was used at Gaia and Lumen. The university could choose from that. We also adapted our plans in order to save four trees that were on the list for felling. We thought it was important to keep the green atmosphere.'
And how does it feel now your design can be admired in real life?
Jaap Dirk: ‘It all started on a whim but once you go through the whole process from design to implementation you find out what you are capable of. It is a pity we couldn't have done a similar project at an early stage in our degree course. That way you put into practice what you have learnt and you can earn some money!'
Tim: ‘The nice thing is that you learn to deal with all the ins and outs of designing. Some things look great on paper but are not feasible, perhaps because they are too expensive. For example, we wanted to finish off the sitting areas with white concrete edging but the budget didn't stretch to that. We were very disappointed about that at first. But the end result, a thing black edge, is quite acceptable.'
Jonas: ‘We have the landscape architecture degree at Wageningen University, but who designs the campus? We are the first in our chair group to get the chance. I hope in the future more places on the campus can be designed by students. It's nice for students to have more influence over the buildings that go up on the campus.'