Science Center for Youth, Ben-Gurion University, Be'er Sheva
CONTEXT: Building as dialogue
Adjacent to the university's entrance, the site marks a boundary between the large interior courtyard to the north and the city to the south. While today this boundary is defined by a green park on the ground level, the erection of a 3 story's tall building on the site will make these distinctions manifest. This is the suitable location for the JSCY as well as an opportunity for the university to redefine its main interior courtyard and relationship with the city.
The proposal aims at addressing these issues through the design of the JSCY. On a site that marks a boundary we propose a building that activates a dialogue.
CONTENT = FORM: Building as modern day Agora.
The plan is derived out of the distribution of the program into units. These units are expressed as distinguished volumes that are forming the south façade. In units 2-4 the center's program is laid directly in accordance to the brief. The Labs and classes are arranged on the top 2 floors & supported by a central service strip that includes the toilets, shafts and circulation. In between the units the circulation area is exposed. The programmatic allocation of in-formal meeting and rest areas overlooking the city to these exposed portions of the main corridor manifests the agora concept at the façade.
The larger volume (1) consists out of the visitor (auditorium on the ground floor) & admin (2 top floors) programs. It is designed as a distinguished volume in both facades in order to manifest its centrality & accessibility in the overall layout. The gap between this volume and the next 3 marks the entrance and forms the central agora at the ground floor.
The design of the ground floor celebrates the nature of the program as a center for communication & exchange of ideas. This is achieved through the binding of the auditorium, the lobby (+ think boxes & non-formal areas), the garden & entrance procession to the university into one system. The stepped auditorium is positioned on the eastern corner of the ground floor where its steps bridge the height difference between the entrance and the garden level.
The auditorium is designed as a glass box enabling events & lectures to be conducted behind a peripheral darkening curtain, or exposed to the surroundings. The auditorium steps are 'stretched' in both directions to further emphasize the binding of the elements. To the west the steps merge garden and building while to the east they are designed as an in-formal sitting/gathering/resting area overlooking the surroundings. A ramp leads 1 meter up to the bridge that constitutes the first floor corridor investing additional programmatic activity to the ground floor agora.
A water feature accompanies the entrance procession to the JSCY. It begins at ground level and continues as it turns 90 degrees to follows the steps down in parallel to the auditorium. The water journey ends after it completes another 90 degree turn to face the agora 3 meters below it origin where it separates the interior court yard from the garden.
ENVELOPE: Material, sustainability & Communication
The brief for the JSCY's envelope includes clear requirements in terms of materiality (concrete) & sustainability. Articulated as a central part to the proposal is a design for the envelope that adds a program to these requirements; communication.
The abundance of exposed concrete in the campus is a key feature in its identity and therefore must be respected. However it requires constant updating to ensure the image of the campus does not freeze in time. The proposed envelope re-phrases the conventional use & appearance of concrete by the use of extra thin precast units as vertical brie-soliel. These one meter deep elements prevent direct sun light from penetrating the interior and decrease the energy required for AC by up to 50%.
An exterior coat of glass is added to this system in order to achieve 3 goals:
1. A further decrease of the required cooling energy due to tiny white dots that are printed on the glass & block 20% of light & heat transfer.
2. A further rephrasing of the concrete appearance due to its subtle veiling.
3. The creation of a light receiving surface that enables the use of led projection from
The layered façade that is received is not only extremely energy but an instrument of communication with the city. The led projection is connected to a computer and allows, through the aid of a simple software interface, the inscription of text, diagrams & graphics onto the façade. Imagine a clock, a temperature & humidity meters, the level of the Kineret water, or the election results projected from the JSCY façade to the campus & city alike.