At Wiegerinck, we’re used to big challenges. But the assignment that Ghent University Hospital (UZ Gent) presented to us was exceptionally tough. The existing hospital will be demolished in phases over the next thirty years and largely rebuilt. In the meantime, new construction is set to begin sooner than expected.
The first step is thus the rapid construction of a high-rise that can accommodate various functions for the coming years. Exactly which functions will be housed in this building is not yet clear and can vary from outpatient clinics to offices and labs. Over the long term, the building will become home to healthcare-related companies active in Research & Development.
Speed wasn’t the only requirement for this project. The building also needs to fit seamlessly into the master plan, last a long time, radiate ambition and progressiveness, be sustainable, function as a gateway for the new hospital, logically connect to future buildings and be a landmark for the city of Ghent. The complete design, including a technical plan and cost estimate, had to be made in four weeks.
The new building will eventually become part of a series of research buildings with an adjacent park. An existing catering building may be retained and organically incorporated into the new building. On the ground floor, the inviting colonnades and patio lead the way to the two-storey entrance, which also contains various meeting rooms. The rooftop garden is full of trees and plants, offering views in all directions—a striking green crown, visible from a considerable distance. High windows provide ample daylight inside and offer users a maximum view of the campus.
In the first phase, the lower floors of the high-rise will house various outpatient clinics and offices of the ICU. The rest of the programming is still largely unknown. Since the building must initially be able to house a wide variety of functions, the basic structure is clear and flexible. Everything fits into the proposed pattern. And because the central shaft (for the lift and the fire escape) and the façade are load-bearing, the rooms contain as few columns as possible. Each floor can easily accommodate at least four different companies or functions.
Normally, all technology is located at the top of a building. But since the use and technical requirements for each floor can change at any time, the technology (cabling, ventilation, pressure pipes) also has to be flexible and adaptable. With this in mind, the building’s technology has been split into two layers. The first layer is on the fourth floor and serves the floors below. The second layer serves the upper floors and is located on the roof, hidden in the roof garden.
Since the new building needs to go up quickly, only the load-bearing core will be cast in situ. The rest of the building will be constructed using prefabricated components. Not only is this quicker, it also means that the entire building and the facade can be constructed by just two parties.