Plan Documentation
Published in DASH #10 - Housing the Student
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Plan Documentation Housing the Student

The plan documentation for this tenth edition of DASH includes ten examples of student housing projects that have actually been built. Spread across Europe and North America, the projects give a panoramic overview of models for student housing that have been developed over the past 500 years. The architecture of the student dwelling has a rich and dynamic history, and the selection shows a number of projects that illustrate the most important traditions and innovations.

St John’s College in Cambridge exemplifies the college, developed in the Middle Ages: a collective residential building for teachers and students. The residents share a set of communal facilities, the most important of which are the dining room, library and chapel. This type of construction is known from the old British university cities, but can also be found on the continent. In the 500 years since its founding, St John’s College has been expanded again and again; it demonstrates how the residential units in the college have developed over the course of time.

The Residencia de Estudiantes in Madrid exemplifies the student house of the twentieth-century: a rationally designed accommodation building with a linear repetition of identical rooms, without any extensive collective programme. The first Dutch example of housing built specifically for students is the Collège néerlandais in Paris. The design harkens back to the past: with its courtyard shape and community facilities, the building follows the college model rather literally.

The explosive growth of universities in Europe and North America after the Second World War led to many student housing projects, and several special experiments can be found in this abundance. In the patio student residences on the first Dutch campus in Twente, units are clustered around collective patios, forming a unique ‘mat-building’ in terms of landscape. In the Maison d’Iran in Paris, the expression of the construction is the crucial starting point. Box-shaped volumes that contain the simple main design of corridors with repeating units are hung on colossal and visible steel portals. The space that remains under and between the volumes is used for collective functions.

Interesting experiments have also taken place in traditional university towns, where distinctly modernist architecture has been embedded in the historical buildings. The Cripps Building, an extension of St John’s College in Cambridge, and the Morse and Stiles Colleges for Yale University in New Haven are virtuoso examples of this. Meandering and curved volumes, built up of rooms that are clustered around portico stairwells, attempt to fit into the existing spatial structures.

Much like in the regular housing industry, the large-scale approach dominated over the smaller-scale, individual approach to student housing in the 1970s. The large student housing complex called Hoogveldt, in Nijmegen, is a typical example of the large and often anonymous complexes that arose in the Dutch university towns, in which repeating clusters of student rooms shared a communal bathroom and kitchen with dining area.

From the new boom in student housing projects that were built during the last two decades, two examples have been chosen that show the new forms of housing. The Svartlamoen project in Trondheim introduces a striking informality in a small residential building for students and young people. The collective housing programme dominates, and the student rooms have been minimized almost to the point of being closets in a large communal space. A greater contrast between this building and the Anna van Bueren Toren in The Hague is almost unthinkable. In a single building, this latter example in the plan documentation combines the classrooms of Leiden University’s bachelor-degree programme with the residences of the students who study there. In terms of appearance, the building fits into the anonymous office and apartment complexes that surround it, and only reveals its special function after being entered.

To make the plans transparent and comparable, the projects have been redrawn in a uniform drawing style. First, the urban-planning design of the project has been drawn in a broader context. In a more detailed site plan of the ground level, the connection between the living space, the collective indoor and outdoor spaces, and the public space has been visualized (in the typical way that DASH does this). For each plan, the most characteristic floors have been drawn in their entirety, with one or more cross sections. The exception here is St John’s College, for which only the complex of courtyards at ground level has been drawn.

The drawings are based on archival and published material taken from the time when the project was built. For St John’s College, the drawings were based on the drawings in the Inventory of the Historical Monuments in the City of Cambridge, published by the Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England.

For the majority of these projects, new DASH photo reportages have been created. For the College néerlandais, which is currently being renovated, we used photographs that were taken several years before the start of the renovation. The project in Trondheim is illustrated using photographs provided by the architect.


With contributions by:
Sergio Martín Blas, Piet Vollaard & Jurjen Zeinstra

Guido Greijdanus, Cederick Ingen-Housz, Carlyn Simoen