Opened in March 2017, the New Central Building at the Leuphana University of Lüneburg, Germany, operates at zero emissions, due to its outstanding energy efficiency and energy supply based on renewables.
A sublime demonstration project for energy-optimised design, it reaches levels far beyond the energy-saving regulation standard, which sets energy requirements for new buildings in Germany.

Conceptualised in collaboration with architect Daniel Libeskind, who is also a professor at the university, sustainability was considered throughout the design and construction of the building. RW+ acted as architect of record and provided the detail design, tender documentation and site supervision.

Interlinking layout
The new 13 000m² zinc-clad building integrates the Research Centre, the Student Centre, the Seminar Centre and the Auditorium into one single structure, a configuration that promotes cross-disciplinary interaction and a dynamic learning environment.

Each of the functions are housed in four individually shaped and mutually interlinking volumes that form a major composite structure achieving the maximum efficiency in terms of usage, structure, energy consumption and architectural impact.

•    Student Centre
A two-storey volume with dramatic geometric windows that span the height of the building at irregular intervals. It includes a cafeteria on the ground floor, while workshops, labs and offices are situated on the upper floors.

•    Seminar Centre
A three-storey structure with a curved roof and soffit forming the main entry. It provides more spaces for workshops, classes and seminars and the “Raum der Stille” (“Room of Silence”), a multi-confessional devotion and meditation room. This room features a wall with a handcrafted fractal pattern of custom-cut aluminium tiles painted a pearlescent shade of white to enhance the experience of quiet reflection.

•    Libeskind Auditorium
This section is based on a rectangular ground plan in which the walls are inclined and the roof forms a convex curve. The auditorium provides flexible seating arrangements for different scenarios of use by the university, the city of Lüneburg and the general public: A total of 1 100 seats for lectures are adaptable for classical concerts or theatre performances. Red-cushion-stacked seats line one wall and can be pulled out for the auditorium’s use.

•    Research Centre
A seven-storey volume with sloping walls and horizontal bands of windows placed in-between. The centre provides a variety of spaces for groups and single persons working and teaching, and a balcony on the top floors that overlooks the campus and building’s sloping green roof. The green roof covers the lower volumes of the building.

As visitors enter the building, they will encounter the swooping volume of the seminar centre and a triple-height atrium awash in light thanks to half a dozen skylights. Interior stairwells and bridges crisscross the volume, revealing the complexity of the space.

Exposed concrete and white canted walls are accentuated with rich smoked-oak parquet flooring throughout the building. Within the lobby is a massive red geometric form that articulates the exterior of the Libeskind Auditorium and the main stairway.

Painted red walls run throughout the building to provide additional way-finding and orientation.

Student involvement
In seminars held to facilitate student participation, students also had the opportunity to gain insights into the complex questions of various design stages, bring forward their own perspectives and develop solutions which found their way into the execution of the project. Along with the building’s design, topics that the students engaged in included landscape design, the way-finding system and interior design.

Underlying this participation is the emphasis towards creating an educational space that allows for communication, creativity and an exchange of knowledge that is reflected in the design.

Full thanks and acknowledgement are given to Studio Libeskind for the information and photos provided to compile this article.


A sustainable showpiece
Some of the most significant green features of the building are:
•    A green roof was installed on the lower volumes of the building.
•    A greywater system was designed.
•    An innovative structural Cobiax bi-axial voided slab system was used to make the concrete lighter.
•    Electrochromic glass (ECONTROL®) was used for a number of windows in the research centre, which helps to minimise heat gain and glare.

Materials
Structure: Reinforced concrete and steel.
External walls: Reinforced concrete and steel.
Internal walls: Brickwork and drywall.
Auditorium: Acoustic panels.
Facade: Zinc flatlock tiles.
Windows: Triple glazing, partially with electrochromic glass (ECONTROL®).
Hardscape: Concrete paving, planters, custom concrete benches.
Landscaping: Large-format pre-cast concrete slabs, lawn.

Captions:
The new 13 000m² zinc-clad building integrates the Research Centre, the Student Centre, the Seminar Centre and the Auditorium, each with its own design, into one single structure.

Photos courtesy of Leuphana Universitat