ANTWERP – Building O, a university building within the University of Antwerp opened in 2016, now has a sister-building christened Building M. Designed by META Architecture Bureau and Storimans Wijffels Architects in collaboration with Tractebel, the university building houses classrooms and a research centre for the rehabilitation sciences programme.
The two are built side by side and mark the core of the University of Antwerp. Building M, a three-storey construction, shows a clear symmetrical layout with a central core that splits the square floor plan into two. A utility core remains in the centre with the circulation surrounding it, the classrooms and office spaces are then laid out peripherally. A large skylight crowns the centre of this ‘cube’. Zenithal light dips into the three floors and accentuates the two entrance lobbies.
On the ground floor, submerged a half-storey down, a generous bike storage space takes up the building’s footprint. This move of bringing the building down is a deliberate contrast to Building O – also designed by META – where it is lifted up on a platform.
The façade composed of concave concrete columns with vertical strips of glass between them is textured and rhythmic. The narrow spacing between the columns generate the necessary shade to prevent overheating and maintain privacy for the research and work done inside. In the interior the concrete walls are left exposed with sober timber accents.
The façade is delineated by bold red I-beams that end the verticality of the concrete columns that wrap the building. The red of the beams is called upon in the interior with terracotta red flooring spread throughout. The accentuation of its height through the array of uninterrupted columns and the deep beams display a sense of strength and weight but is immediately countered by the reflecting columns, shimmering below.