Innovative use of a sloping site provides new facilities for two university faculties
Story by Charles Moxham
Photography by Stephen Baker
Want to know more?Contact us
A sculptural new cornerstone building is only part of the University of Waikato's Law and Management Building – the rest of the architecture heads underground
A flurry of prefabs or other conformist buildings set in a group or dotted in a row – these were typical old-school solutions to evolving educational needs. Now, enter new-school. Today, education-related architecture works to do everything from facilitate the learning experience and reconcile wider campus design to providing signature landmark buildings.
The award-winning new Law and Management Building designed by Opus Architecture for the University of Waikato achieves all these things in grand style.
The university asked Opus – with Hendrik Vermeulen and Eqo Leung respectively as project and lead design architects – to design a new building for the Law Faculty and to link this with the existing Management Faculty complex. The existing management building was in need of additional teaching and admin spaces and the Law Faculty required offices as well as teaching spaces.
"Our solution was to provide a new facility for Law that is directly linked to the Management Faculty on two levels so that the facilities can be shared between the two faculties," says Vermeulen.
An important factor in this project was the site itself which prior to this development had sloped away to the east corner of the campus.
The broad strokes of the project involved designing a new four-level Law block with podium on the corner site, acting as a wayfinder for the campus. Extending out from this building, two-lower levels of lecture spaces were built on the adjacent sloping campus land and then covered with a flat grass roof. These underground facilities are also accessed from the other direction via the existing Management Faculty.
And to complete the programme, the latter also now has a fresh, above-ground presence with the introduction of a prominent glass entry building on the north side of the now-built-up and flat grass common space.
The high-profile Law Faculty building provides a dramatic gateway into the campus. The building has a strong, simple form – recognising law as a cornerstone of society – and rises four levels high above the glass two-level podium on the corner of the site.
The other end of the podium is underground as it effectively digs into the rising ground behind. And the massive sculptural void above ground at this far end of the building is angled in towards the campus and creates the formal entrance.
The podium extends out under the grass roof to house the lecture spaces shared by the Law Faculty from one side and the existing Management Faculty from the other.
The materiality of the law building contributes to its dramatic presence – concrete for strength and glass for a sense of transparency.
On the street/south side of the building, the facade is predominantly patterned concrete with slender fixed aluminium louvres merging visually with the concrete's striations. These long vertical fins provide solar control over the interiors.
One unusual feature of the building is a double skin corridor that runs around the perimeter, with an 80cm gap for circulation and maintenance.
"Another interesting aspect of the Law building's interior is the ceremonial staircase. This represents a student's odyssey from the start of their university experience to receiving their qualification," says Eqo Leung. "This staircase is located in the tower building linking the main entrance to the courtyard."
"Podium level 1 is located 4m underground and a central concrete courtyard was introduced to give users of the lower levels a connection with the external world. The feel for students and staff is that they're not underground. This is achieved by strategic design, including having natural light stream through gaps in the courtyard walls."
While the Law building is mainly administration, two lecture spaces and a moot court are in the central, shared under-grass part of the podium.
"The Moot Court is a fully functional courtroom, with demountable fittings, enabling the majority of space to be used for other purposes when not set up as a courtroom," says Vermeulen. "This is set further into the recesses of the underground podium where natural light was not required. And for a complete air of realism, the moot court features benches, seating and even a defender's box recycled from the Manukau District Court."
While the podium presents as a glass box supporting the Law building and then heads underground to accommodate the lecture rooms, moot court, courtyard and breakout spaces, it also has a glass facade facing to the east where ground and campus drop away. This is another way to bring in natural light and to capture distant mountain views.
Facing the Law building across the flat grassed area is the other component of the project. The Management Faculty that connects to the lecture rooms underground has been given a new glass entry building above ground. This provides the faculty with a fresh presence and is ideal for holding functions that can spill out onto the lawned area.
First published date: 28 September 2017
More news from Trends
|Project||University of Waikato Law Faculty, Hamilton|
|Owner||The University of Waikato|
|Architect||Hendrik Vermeulen, Eqo Leung, Opus Architecture|
|Construction company||Fletcher Construction|
|Civil engineer, earthworks, landscaping||Opus|
|Cladding||Litecrete patterned precast panels by Wilco Precast, glass, aluminium fins|
|Roof||Dimond Styleline, concrete, TPO membrane, glass|
|Public area flooring||Concrete, Interface carpet tile|
|Wallcoverings||Concrete, Gib and paint|
|Ceiling panels||Gib, fibre cement, Aqualine, Decortech plywood|
|Heating/air conditioning||Airpro, Mitsubishi Electric|
|Awards||NZIA 2017 Waikato/Bay of Plenty Award (Education)|