Circular Cube Tilburg University Lecture Hall, Netherlands public architecture, Modern Dutch building development images

Circular Cube Building at Tilburg University

Updated 7 + 5 March 2024

Architect: Powerhouse Company

Location: Tilburg, The Netherlands

Circular Cube Tilburg University Lecture Hall

Images from the Powerhouse Company

Marga Klompé Building: First mass-timber academic building in Europe

Highly sustainable and circular design by Powerhouse Company on the Tilburg University Campus

Circular Cube Tilburg University Lecture Hall

Marga Klompé Building, designed by Powerhouse Company, is the first college building in Europe to be entirely constructed from solid wood. The new, nearly energy-neutral complex is situated on a plot of land measuring 33 by 33 meters, within the forested campus of Tilburg University. The building accommodates a foyer, 1 auditorium, 13 lecture halls, and self-study spaces for approximately 1,000 students. Its distinctive architecture pays homage to the monumental Cobbenhagen Building on the campus while also serving as a model for the highly sustainable ambitions of university campuses in Europe.

Circular Cube Tilburg University Lecture Hall Holland

Modernist and timeless
The design of the Marga Klompé Building seamlessly integrates with the modernist architecture of the Tilburg University campus. Its circular ambitions are reflected in the renewable nature of its wooden construction, walls, floors, stairs, frames, and finishes. A unique dry construction system has been implemented, utilizing wooden ribbed floors—CTL floors reinforced with beams—that enable large free spans meeting the high acoustic requirements necessary for the program.

Circular Cube Tilburg University Lecture Hall The Netherlands

The Portuguese natural stone facade, featuring deep reveals, directly references the iconic 1962 Cobbenhagen Building by Jos Bedaux. The natural stone, with its long lifespan and ability to be disassembled, confirms the circular ambitions. The stony volume harmonizes with the surrounding architecture, forming an intriguing contrast with the lush, wooded environment. The all-encompassing building is integrated into the campus and marks the entrance from the station.

Circular Cube Tilburg University Lecture Hall The Netherlands

‘Our design aligns with Bedaux’s architecture with muschelkalk stone facades and rhythmic window divisions. In doing so, we emphasize a strong connection with the natural environment.’
– Janneke van der Velden (Associate and Project Architect, Powerhouse Company)

Circular Cube Tilburg University Lecture Hall The Netherlands

Powerhouse Company took the Cobbenhagen Building as a starting point for spatial qualities but brought the design into the 21st century by opting for a palette of natural, circular materials such as wood, terrazzo, and plasterwork. These materials are prominently featured and contribute to a serene atmosphere, from the spacious lecture halls to the intimate alcoves by the windows. Additionally, wooden furniture has been used to enhance the tranquil study spaces.

Circular Cube Tilburg University Lecture Hall The Netherlands

Marga Klompé Building is designed with the latest insights in sustainability based on the Trias Energetica principle, including very low energy consumption and smart use of natural resources. The cube shape and central atrium of the building minimize energy loss through the exterior walls.

Strategically placed openings ensure a stable indoor climate without additional energy consumption. A well-insulated building envelope does the rest for a passive contribution to low energy usage. For this purpose, a special material has been chosen: the insulation partly consists of recycled denim jeans. Textile waste that would otherwise be incinerated is now used to create cotton insulation. It is sustainable and has proven to be an excellent way to improve the building’s acoustic comfort.

Circular Cube Tilburg University Lecture Hall The Netherlands

‘The close collaboration with the design team and the client has resulted in a building that not only meets strict sound and acoustic standards but also seamlessly integrates circular and sustainable principles for an optimal living environment.’
– Gerben Stam (Strategic Advisor, Royal HaskoningDHV)

The design maximizes the number of PV panels and integrates energy-efficient installations. Ventilation and lighting feature smart control systems that adapt to actual demand. Heating and cooling are provided by an efficient ground storage system with a heat pump. Despite the strong emphasis on energy efficiency, the indoor climate meets Fresh Schools Class A standards. The Marga Klompé Building can proudly boast a BREEAM Outstanding certificate and achieves nearly energy neutrality.

Circular Cube Tilburg University Lecture Hall Holland

Circular ambitions
Careful consideration has been given to how building installations can contribute optimally to circularity. Thanks to the thoughtful design of the building, the use of climate installations can be minimized. Stringent requirements for air quality have led to the integration of ventilation and climate systems. Furthermore, the atrium has been cleverly utilized to harness return ventilation. This has resulted in a significant reduction in the required ductwork, contributing to an impressive circular assessment with an MPG score of 0.5, a BCI score of 0.61, and an MCI score of 72%.

‘By proposing a wooden educational building in our vision for the tender, we motivated the client to take the next step in sustainable educational buildings. Together with Tilburg University, we further elevated the ambitions during the design process to achieve a maximally circular and energy-neutral design.’
– Stefan Prins (Partner Architect, Powerhouse Company)

Circular Cube Tilburg University Lecture Hall

In addition to being circular, the Marga Klompé Building is also climate-adaptive and nature-inclusive. The gently sloping landscape, designed by Studio REDD, extends to the facade and includes a wadi seeded with wildflowers. This wadi serves not only as an aesthetic element but also functions as a Water Drainage and Infiltration system, capturing and infiltrating rainwater into the ground instead of directly draining into the sewer system. This contributes to reducing flood risks and promoting a healthier ecosystem while sustainably connecting with the campus and the natural environment.

Thanks to close collaboration between architect, structural engineer, and installation consultant, the Marga Klompé Building has been realized, with innovative solutions leading to an optimal result. The lecture halls above the large halls have impressive spans of 9.2 meters, achieved with CLT ribbed floors. This enabled us to meet requirements for deflection, vibrations, and acoustics. By raising the ribs higher and spacing them further apart, the floor gained more mass for better acoustics, while the space between the beams could be utilized for ventilation ducts, lighting, and other technical provisions. The acoustic wooden lattice ceiling between the beams subtly conceals the technology, while the beams themselves remain beautifully exposed, integral to the architecture.

Circular Cube Tilburg University Lecture Hall

‘Not only have we delivered a wooden educational building, but we have also captured the essence of intelligent design. Every material has been carefully chosen and placed, allowing us to create not just a physical structure but also a monument to smart choices and sustainability.’
– Gilbert van der Lee (Engineer, BREED Integrated Design)

Circular Cube Tilburg University Lecture Hall Holland

It’s in the name
Marga Klompé was the first female minister in the Netherlands and was awarded an honorary doctorate by the then Catholic University of Tilburg in 1982. Klompé advocated for a social and meaningful society and stood up for social issues. This emphasizes the connection between her vision and that of the university, where societal engagement is central. This recognizes Tilburg University’s commitment to continuing her legacy through education, research, and active involvement on campus.

Circular Cube Tilburg University Lecture Hall Holland

‘From the outset, we knew we had the right partner. The decision for a wooden construction was surprising but fitting with our sustainability goals. Despite challenges, the ideas remained intact, allowing us to follow a clear course. The process was characterized by passion, dedication, and communication. This has led to a unique project that strengthens the identity of our environment.’
– Richard Antens (Project Manager, Tilburg University)

Circular Cube, Tilburg University Lecture Hall

Powerhouse Company has completed its design for A Circular Cube, the Netherlands’ first mass timber university building. The new energy-neutral building for Tilburg University sits on a small footprint of 33 x 33 meters, and contains 14 lecture rooms, selfstudy areas and a foyer. Set within a wooded landscape, the lecture hall’s timeless form echoes the existing Modernist structures on the campus.

Circular Cube, Tilburg University Lecture Hall

19 Jan 2022

Circular Cube Building, Holland

‘Together with our client, we upped our ambition during the design process resulting in a carbon neutral, completely circular, and BREEAM Outstanding design.’
– Janneke van der Velden, Associate Architect at Powerhouse Company

Circular Cube, Tilburg University Lecture Hall Circular Cube, Tilburg University Lecture Hall

Triumph in Timber
With its predominantly cross-laminated timber structure, the lecture hall is a fully circular pioneer in academic architecture. Tackling significant design challenges, the wooden rib floors span a groundbreaking 9 meters, while meeting the complex demands required by an educational building. The dry construction system employs 4.6 kilometers of timber beams that are demountable for future reuse. Additionally, hanging the limestone façade panels, rather than gluing them, allows the stone to be recycled too.

‘Our details look simple and self-evident, but pioneering the technical junctions in collaboration with different disciplines was a challenge. This untrodden road was inspiring and taught us a lot.’
– Romano van den Dool, BIM Engineer at Powerhouse Company

Circular Cube Tilburg University

A New Cube in a Modernist Family
The new lecture hall’s design is inspired by the first structure on the campus: Jos. Bedaux’s 1962 Cobbenhagen building, now a listed monument. Bedaux reflected the university’s Catholic roots with a design that gives a Modernist twist to monastic architecture. Powerhouse Company’s design adapts Bedaux’s monumental simplicity with a limestone facade, rhythmic window placement and a close relationship between the interior spaces and the surrounding nature. The result is a building that, with its mellow stone facade and rootedness in the woodland setting, appears as though it has always been there.

‘The lecture hall is a timeless and sustainable addition to the campus architecture of Tilburg University. It breathes the atmosphere of the library and the monastery, in line with the original Modernist buildings.’
– Stefan Prins, Partner Architect at Powerhouse Company

Circular Cube Tilburg University Circular Cube Tilburg University

A Contemplative Calm
Inside, as with the Cobbenhagen building, the fixtures and furniture are intrinsic parts of the design. A natural palette is used throughout – wood, stone, and plaster – from the lofty sculptural space of the lecture hall, to intimate window niches. Besides the exposed structural timber, simple wooden tables, benches, and cruciform reading lamps exude a sense of serenity and calm. Expansive windows allow natural light to flood the space while playfully capturing a range of views, some unexpected – the sky, a single tree, or people walking to the campus.

‘As part of a masterplan, designed to restore the original character of the campus, our building heightens the appreciation of the existing architecture on the site.’
– Antónia Pohanková, former Architect at Powerhouse Company

Four Faces for a Campus Hub
We looked at the various characteristics of the site surrounding our building – forest, parkland, accommodation, and the main route to the train station serving the campus – and designed four facades responding to these different features. All four sides of the building connect via footpaths, views and sightlines to different parts of the site: Each side has different detailing and window distribution reflecting its orientation.

Circular Cube Tilburg University Hollands’ first mass timber university building

Educational Ensemble
The building will be an addition to Powerhouse Company’s growing educational portfolio, including its pavilion for Erasmus University Rotterdam (with De Zwarte Hond) and its Jakoba Mulderhuis in Amsterdam (with Marc Koehler Architects and Architecten Cie), the new gateway to the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences campus, currently under construction.

About Powerhouse Company
Powerhouse Company is an award-winning architecture office based in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. Founded in 2005, it has grown into a multidisciplinary office of around 100 professionals, with international studios in Rotterdam, Beijing, Oslo and Munich. Prizes include the Dutch Design Award, the Maaskant Prize and the AM/NAI Award.

Tilburg University Lecture Hall

Circular Cube Building at Tilburg University, Holland – Building Information

Architects: Powerhouse Company –
Status: In design
Timeline: 2019 – present
Client: Tilburg University

Size: 5 000 sqm
City: Tilburg
Country: The Netherlands
Typology: Education
Budget: Confidential

Circular Cube Tilburg University

Landscape architect: EDM Tuin en Landschap
Stedenbouw: Studio Hartzema
Installation’s advisor: Royal Haskoning DHV
Building physics advisor: Royal Haskoning DHV
Contractor: Koninklijke BAM Groep
Constructor: BREED Integrated Design
Geotechnical advisor: Inpijn Blokpoel
Sustainability advisor: Rienks Bouwmanagement
Mobility advisor: Royal Haskoning DHV
Financial advisor: Multibouwadvies

Model: Studio Abstract, Powerhouse Company

Photography: Frans Parthesius (model)

Leading Partner: Stefan Prins
Projectleader: Janneke van der Velden
Projectteam: Iván Guerrero Jimenez, Antónia Pohanková, Romano van den Dool, Martijn Ravia, Michiel Bosch, Sanja Kralj, Robert Cuijpers, Bjørn Andreassen, Erwin van Strien, Gert Ververs, Rafael Zarza García, Giovanni Andrea Coni and Jugoslav Stankin

Circular Cube, Tilburg University Lecture Hall

Images: Powerhouse Company

Circular Cube Building at Tilburg University images / information received 190122 from Powerhouse Company Architects, NL

Location: Tilburg, Netherlands

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