Students and faculty at the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale (EPFL) in Lausanne, Switzerland, will begin hiking the internal topography of the new Rolex Learning Center when it opens on February 22.
Designed by SANAA, the Japanese firm headed by Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa, the 398,000-square-foot library and campus hub presents visitors with a concrete floor that slopes and swells like the surrounding Swiss landscape. People with mobility problems or those just feeling tired can take specially designed “inclined elevators,” glass boxes adapted from standard lift design.
The architects’ goal was to create one fluid space where students and researchers from the school’s various disciplines (science, engineering, technology, and architecture) can mingle in an environment with almost no traditional partitions. Instead of using steps, stairs, or walls, SANAA separated different functional areas by placing them in floor valleys or tucked between the five outdoor “patios” cut within the building’s rectangular footprint. These ovoid patios, which are surrounded by glazing, provide a variety of landscaped places for socializing and bring daylight into all parts of the one-story facility.