Rolex Learning Center
The Rolex Learning Center is above all a library and learning space devoted to the cultivation of knowledge by an array of different methods.
It has one of the largest collections of scientific literature
in Europe, with over 500,000 volumes. In addition, an exciting
range of new pedagogical technologies in the building, as well as
the layout itself, are innovations to the public's approach to
texts and learning.
Located centrally on the EPFL campus, and its new hub, the building is essentially one continuous structure spread over the site. The building is rectangular in plan, but appears to be more organic in shape because of the way that its roof and floor undulate gently, always in parallel. With few visible supports, the building touches the ground lightly, leaving an expanse of open space beneath, which draws people from all sides towards a central entrance.
The most audacious aspect of the new library is its lack of physical boundaries. The large open space is defined by its artificial geography. It groups silent and calm zones along its hills and slopes, rather than offering traditional cloistered study rooms. As well as providing social areas and an impressive auditorium, the building lends itself to the establishment of quiet zones and silent zones, acoustically separated areas created through changes in height.
The slopes, valleys and plateaus within the building, as well as the shapes made by the patios, all contribute to these barrier-free delineations of space. In addition, clusters of glazed or walled "bubbles" make small enclosures for small groups to meet or work together in.
Inside, the hills, valleys and plateaus formed by the undulation often make the edges of the building invisible, though there are no visual barriers between one area and the next. Instead of steps and staircases, there are gentle slopes and terraces.
Clearly, but without dividing walls, one area of activity gives way to another. Visitors stroll up the gentle curves, or perhaps move around the space on one of the specially designed "horizontal lifts," elegant glass boxes, whose engineering is adapted from everyday lift design.
The topography lends an extraordinary fluidity to the building's flexible open plan - a flow that is emphasized by fourteen voids in the structure, of varying dimensions. These are glazed and create a series of softly rounded external 'patios', as the architects describe them. The patios are social spaces and provide a visual link between the inside and the outside. They are very much part of the building.
We did not make a normal one-room space but incorporated patios and topography to organize the program such that each is separated and connected at the same time. The large one-room space undulates up and down creating an open space under the building so that people can walk to the center of the building. This enabled us to make one main entrance at the center of the building./SANAA
The Rolex Learning Center is a highly energy-efficient building
which, for its low energy consumption, has received the coveted
Minergie label - the standard used in Switzerland for measuring
environmental excellence in buildings.
Facts about Rolex Learning Center
Footprint: 66,273 ft2
Floor Area: 121,391 ft2
Kazuyo Sejima + Ryue Nishizawa
Losinger Construction SA
Botta Management Group AG
Structural Base Concept:
SAPS / Sasaki and Partners
B+G Ingenieure Bollinger
Photographed by Iwan Baan
Last updated: January 14, 2013