Viñoly at Wageningen
by Michael J. Crosbie
Sometimes a building is so well suited to its use, to the client, and to the site that it is hard to imagine it designed any other way. The Atlas Building at Wageningen University in the Netherlands, designed by New York City-based Rafael Viñoly Architects, is actually such a building — once you get to know it.
At first glance, it might look a bit off-putting. Atlas contains laboratories and offices for the Environmental Sciences Group on the Wageningen campus, where the research focus is on environmental, plant, animal, agrotechnological, and food sciences. About a third of the 10,000-square-meter (108,000-square-foot) building is devoted to lab space.
The building might initially appear too sterile and ascetic, especially on the exterior, but the more you learn about it, the more it appears perfectly in harmony with the campus and its scientists, and the work they do.
The Atlas Building sits on an important spot — right next to the main entry to campus — so it had to perform the role of a landmark, according to project architect Mariana Kolova in Viñoly's office. The site was chosen by the university planners for its prominence, and the client wanted a building that would be an icon.
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