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Lots of gems and a tranquil environment

After years of planning, designing, discussing and building, it’s finally finished. From January 2018, the Nijmegen School of Management is based in the impressive Elinor Ostrom Building on Heyendaalseweg. NSM magazine was given a tour by the architects.

The original plan was for the Nijmegen School of Management to move in two phases. Half of the staff would move to Heyendaalseweg in September 2017, and the other half in September 2019. “Far from ideal, but the HAN University of Applied Sciences had a contract for the space until the middle of 2018 and as yet, had no new accommodation,” says architect Paul Arets. He’s excited to tell us how the Department of Property Management (Universitair Vastgoed Bedrijf) came up with a solution. “The idea was put forward to house the HAN in the carpark under the Gymnasion. A crazy idea, but when we started working it out, it seemed perfect. Perfect for the HAN, because the sports and exercise study programmes became integrated with the sports facilities in the Gymnasion, and perfect for the Nijmegen School of Management, because everyone and everything could move in one go. It was also ideal from a construction perspective, because the contractor could start working on all the floors immediately.”

A professional look and feel – the students give the building lots of colour

So much glass “Hey, this isn’t carpet!” shouts one of the workers, when we accidently walk over a piece of foam rubber that he’s using to insulate heating pipes. At the time of writing, the painters, carpenters and fitters are adding the finishing touches to the building. An enormous lorry delivers lots of furniture, and cleaners are busy cleaning the many office windows.

“All that glass has caused some problems,” says architect Hanek Höweler. “The fact that you could see each other from head to toe didn’t appeal to everyone. But the more we talked about it, the more people got used to it. Some rooms are completely transparent. Other offices, that more people walk past, have had the windows partially covered by a film.” Arets looks into one of the offices. “See that, Hannek?” The desks have not been put where he and Höweler had intended. He sighs. After all, it is their baby…

Warm and professional Designing means making compromises. Arets: “You create a design, present it, listen to comments, try to convince others, create a new design, and so on. This is the kind of project that you work on together, and I can only say that I enjoyed the collaboration with the Nijmegen School of Management and the university. It was very constructive.”

Where Arets mainly focussed on the design and layout, Höweler was responsible for the furnishings, from the furniture layout, to the upholstery in the lecture theatre. “I chose dark grey material, with the look and feel of a tailored suit. Obviously, the first question to spring to mind was: what if something gets spilled on it? The facilities team poured cups of coffee over it as a test, and the fabric turned out to be easy to clean.” The chair upholstery gives the lecture theatre a professional but warm look and feel. “The wooden floor, which has also been tested for ease of maintenance, adds to that.”

Blue sky and clouds One of the building’s many gems is the study landscape, which stretches from the basement to the first floor. Höweler: “You know exactly where you are from the walls. We covered the basement with photo wallpaper of a cross-section of sand. For the ground floor, we chose the Ooijpolder, and the top is covered with blue sky and clouds.”

The architects really did think of everything. Höweler: “When we showed the carpet and upholstery samples, we were asked why we went for brown and grey. Firstly, because these colours create a professional look and feel: you’re not at a primary school, you’re being prepared to enter the job market. Secondly, tranquillity is very important. The students already add a lot of colour to the building with their coats and trainers in various colours.”

Calm and tranquil From the first meetings, to the opening on 8 February, the project has taken the colleagues from AGS Architects roughly four years. The results are now there for all to see but, as always, the journey didn’t always go smoothly. The extra rooms, for example, that have been added along the entire length of the back of the building to create more space than initially intended. “The simple decision was to expand one of the four wings. “That would have disrupted the balance of the entire design and would have been a nightmare from an urban planning perspective,” says Arets, making the horror of this idea clear. The solution was to connect the wings at the back. “It looks much better and it has created pleasant internal garden areas that we have made into green spaces. They’re not accessible – you can only look at them. This creates a tranquil environment.”

Arets and Höweler are pleased, but they say that their opinions don’t really count. “We kept the students and staff in mind from the start. We really hope that they enjoy their new home.”/JvdB

AGS Architects:
Paul Arets on LinkedIn
Hannek Höweler on LinkedIn