Campus - 21.02.2018 - 00:00 

Japanese architecture for HSG Learning Center

The outcome of the architecture competition for the HSG Learning Center has been decided in favour of Sou Fujimoto Architects from Tokyo/Paris. The jury was won over by the architectural, didactic, financial and urban-planning aspects of the "Open Grid – Choices of Tomorrow" project. Prestigious donors have already pledged 40 million Swiss francs to its realisation.
Source: HSG Newsroom

21 February 2018. The HSG Foundation wants to build a Learning Center on the Rosenberg estate for the University of St.Gallen (HSG). The goal of the project is to help the HSG and its students face the challenges of digitalisation and to enable a new quality of learning.

A milestone has now been achieved with the conclusion of the architecture competition, led by Professor Marc Angélil. The entries submitted by the eight participating agencies were evaluated based on the following criteria: architecture and urban planning, innovation in concept execution, functionality, sustainability and economic efficiency.

In the end, the 16-member jury decided in favour of Sou Fujimoto Architects and the "Open Grid – Choices of Tomorrow" project. Their decision was primarily based on the project’s highly developed didactic concept, compatibility with the district, architectural ambition and affordability.

Independent and versatile

The project envisions a structure consisting of multiple cubes on a grid, with a total of 7,000 m2 of floorspace. The heights of the cubes will vary from 3.5 to a maximum 18.5 metres above street level on Guisanstrasse. As such, the building takes into account the proportions of the neighbouring residential area, while still remaining impressively independent. The architecture integrates itself in Rosenberg’s natural landscape thanks to rooftop terraces planted with greenery. Indoor and outdoor spaces will be connected by glass elements. Furthermore, the structure of the building is designed to enable the layout of the rooms to be changed repeatedly to correspond precisely with didactic requirements. With its orientation and terracing, the “Open Grid” project also seeks to establish a dialogue with the historical Campus of the HSG.

Projects from Tokyo to London

Sou Fujimoto (1971) holds a Bachelor of Engineering from the University of Tokyo. He founded his architectural agency in Tokyo in the year 2000 and has been a professor at Kyoto University since 2007. He became known to a broader public when he won the international Architectural Review Award for Emerging Architecture in 2005 and in the three years that followed. In 2008, he won the prestigious Grand Prize of Architectural Institute of Japan. And in 2013, he was the youngest architect at the time to have been invited to exhibit at the summer pavilion of the Serpentine Galleries in London. In addition to many other prizes, his agency won the competition for the Polytechnique Learning Centre of the University of Paris-Saclay in 2015. The architecture agency has had an office in Paris with over 30 employees since 2016, in addition to the one in Tokyo.

Ecosystem for a culture of teaching and learning

The HSG Learning Center is designed to be a place to think and work, a space that facilitates innovative types of learning and interaction with students, teachers and people working in their respective fields. In establishing the HSG Learning Center, the University seeks to enable a new quality of learning that will prepare students as effectively as possible to work in a digital age after graduation. The HSG Learning Center is conceived as an ecosystem where HSG’s culture of teaching and learning can develop further. In 2017, an international best-practice analysis of learning centers was conducted and a preliminary didactic vision was developed for the HSG Learning Center under the leadership of HSG Professor Bernadette Dilger.

Financed by donations

The HSG Foundation plans to finance the project entirely through donations and is well on the way to doing so. It therefore wishes to express its overwhelming gratitude to the initial donors, who have already pledged around 40 million Swiss francs, especially to Michael Hilti and the Hilti Family Foundation, Thomas Schmidheiny and the Wietlisbach Foundation.

Here is an alphabetised list of the initial donors as of 21 February 2018: Paul Achleitner, Raymond J. Bär, François-Xavier de Mallmann, the Diethelm Keller Group, Angela and Manfred Dirrheimer, Felix Grisard, Martin Haefner, Karl-Erivan W. Haub, the Hilti Family Foundation, Michael Hilti, ISC and St. Gallen Foundation for International Studies, the Lienhard family, Thomas Schmidheiny, Hans-Adam II, Prince of Liechtenstein, and the Wietlisbach Foundation. A full list of donors can be found on the website of the HSG Foundation.

The construction and interior furnishing of the HSG Learning Center is projected to cost 40 to 50 million Swiss francs. The HSG Foundation further assumes that an additional 10 million Swiss francs will be needed to operate the building in accordance with the didactic concept in the years that follow. All told, the donation initiative therefore aims at a sum of around 60 million Swiss francs.

Exhibition of the projects

The winning architectural project and all the other submissions can be viewed on the first storey of the main building of the University of St.Gallen until 9 March 2018. The HSG Foundation and the University of St.Gallen will continue to cultivate an exchange with the district, whether in the form of a direct dialogue with neighbouring residents, information events for the entire district, or the district newspaper of the HSG, which is distributed up to twice a year.

The Canton of St.Gallen intends to award building rights to the HSG Foundation for the required building plot. Preparations for the planning application should be completed by the beginning of 2019. Construction is scheduled to begin in 2019/20. The goal here is to commission the urgently needed building in time for the 2022 spring semester.

Picture: Sou Fujimoto Architects