Bergen University College
Bergen University College is a pioneer in acknowledging the need for inclusive design and has become a popular place that inspires learning for everyone, both during and after school hours
The university college campus at Kronstad is a long-term project that started in 2002, long before universal design was articulated as a formal requirement. Even so, Statsbygg was a pioneer in acknowledging the need for such design, and in seeing possibilities rather than barriers. The premises with the old workshops of NSB large buildings covering 52,000 m² railway tracks and old gates, constituted a district in itself. How could the buildings be preserved and connect three different institutions in a coherent way, and how can inclusive design result in a inclusive environment which invites to learning in a social place for everyone?
“It’s essential to include expertise in universal design as early as the project planning phase, before delivery. Universal design must be part of the main solution”
- Gunhild Synnes, Senior Architect, Statsbygg
This project at the new university college campus at Kronstad in Bergen consists of new construction, transformation of older buildings, looking after sites of special interest, and the creation of large outdoor areas. Universal design has been integrated into high-quality interior designs, ensuring that the campus better supports employees, students and visitors.
When Statsbygg announced the competition for the construction of the new university college campus, there was no requirements for universal design, but they knew that they would come, sooner or later. The goal was therefore to satisfy these requirements without extensive and expensive changes later. For this reason, a strategic working document was drawn up with specifications and requirements, and details of the issues to solve during the various phases. As a result, the university college was, among other achievements, one of the first in Norway that had ramps integrated into the first floor plan.
“We have had many meetings with users, and we were also able to draw on our long experience. All the time, we have intended that the college could be seen as a small village. Universal design should be implemented in a very inclusive way since we wanted the university college to be open for everyone including people who lived in the neighbourhood” - Per Højgaard Nielsen, Architect, HLM arkitektur
The keyword for the project has been ‘connect’: Connection between old and new, the past and the future, small and large, and three institutions in one location. However, it was also necessary to look at the construction and its relationship with the surroundings, the city and the neighbourhood. In order to understand the interior of a building it is important to understand the building in its entirety.
The architects wanted as much light as possible with as low an energy consumption as possible and created atria between each of the seven departments. The atria fill the university college with natural light and enable users to orient themselves relative to existing buildings or landmarks in the city.
In order to reduce the need for focussed light, contrasting elements were used where it was possible, such as doors in contrast with walls, flooring beads, etc.
The principle circulation around the university college both between and within the buildings is simple to understand due to step-free, easily understood patterns of movement. The transitions between indoors and outdoors are open, making it easy to find and use informal zones. The furniture invites visitors to spend time at the university in several different ways, taking different disabilities and preferences into account. This means that the architecture and furnishing invite everyone to use the college actively, not just during normal school hours.
Bergen University College at Kronstad enriches the city. The complete district has benefited from gaining an urban space that is available to everyone. Modern architecture and design are delightfully connected with the history and culture of the site through rehabilitation of the old workshop halls and their current and continued use.
“One of the most important aspects is the way in which universal design at the university college acknowledges and takes seriously the idea that everyone has the right to participate in higher education and in social forums. Not least have the attractive educational facilities at the college led to competition among applicants” - Gunhild Synnes, Senior Architect, Statsbygg
The university college has become a popular place to be around, whether the user wants the seclusion to study or to indulge in social activities.
"We believe that the way in which we have preserved the history adds something special. History, culture and soul," says Per Højgaard Nielsen. Photo: Pål Hoff
All lecture theatres and the most important function rooms are placed at ground level for easy access. Photo: Pål Hoff
Contrasting colours were used on doors, floors and walls to reduce the need for focussed light. Photo: Pål Hoff
Bergen University College is a popular place to be, even after school hours. Photo: Pål Hoff