Westerberg is a sought-after residential area in Osnabrück. The high standard of living also benefits the University and University of Applied Sciences. The universities are sited at attractive locations in Westerberg and – since the departure of the British forces from Osnabrück – have the benefit of vacated property and facilities at the former Von Stein barracks. A new campus with all its important functions is being created between Barbara Strasse and Artilleriestrasse. In the first phase, a new refectory has been created which is used by the numerous students of both the University and the University of Applied Sciences. With its modern and transparent design, it nevertheless firmly relates to the architectural and functional style of the location between the historic Westerberg buildings.
For a long time there was no optimal solution for the supply of meals to students and teachers at the Westerberg campus. The capacity of the existing AVZ service centre dating from 1975 was reached and exceeded owing to the continually rising number of diners. For the new construction of the refectory, a limited open architectural competition, to which 24 architectural practices were invited, was launched in the spring of 2007. In this competition, the design by pbr AG won first prize. For the purpose of creating the urban design concept and the design of the new Westerberg campus, a workshop was carried out in cooperation with the City of Osnabrück. During this workshop the consortium consisting of Lützow 7, the Berlin landscape architects, and pbr AG developed a masterplan in which the new campus formed the urban link between the historic location and the newly to be constructed university buildings. The refectory is the first step towards the future campus. This will be followed by an auditorium and seminar centre, as well as a library. These buildings will give a new forward-looking identity to the campus and the university.
The buildings of the Von Stein barracks, which date from the end of the 19th century, have in recent years been sensitively refurbished. These parts of the university site are quite distinct in their quality compared to other more heterogeneously developed areas owing to their very good building substance. This also meant that the existing urban design situation presented extremely stringent requirements for the architecture of the new building. The new two-storey refectory building is a simple rectangular shape, the body of which is structured in the form of a horizontally folded meandering band. The respective space requirement of the refectory is evident from the rhythmical differences in the height of the meander pattern. Towards the east, towards the campus boulevard, a recess in the building highlights the entrance situation. In addition, generous glazing is indicative of public areas such as the foyer, the cafeteria and the dining halls. The cantilevering roof provides natural shading to the glazed areas and, at the same time, emphasises the meander design motif.
The facade features transparent glazing elements and opaque areas faced with light-coloured brickwork. The refectory presents a homogeneous appearance that matches the surrounding buildings in terms of urban design, scale, materials and colour scheme. The new building continues the sight lines of the institute buildings to the south and the circulation layout is followed through. With the refectory set back from Barbarastrasse, the campus is spatially clearly defined. The layout of the open space of the campus reflects the symmetry of the refectory and – with playfully arranged seating – invites you to pause, thus creating an attractive student boulevard.
Functions stacked on two levels
The construction site is on the slope of a hill, with a full storey-high drop in north-south direction. The design by pbr AG utilises this difference in level by arranging internal storage and plant rooms in that part of the building. The access to the service courtyard is at ground level facing towards the west; it is naturally shielded by the step in the terrain in combination with built screening. Deliveries to the refectory are made via the service courtyard in a very direct and uncomplicated way. This part of the ground floor, on the side away from the public areas, accommodates plant and service rooms, storage, refrigeration rooms and staff rooms.
The main access to the refectory is from the east via the campus boulevard. The two dining rooms and a separate guest room, with a total of 1,000 seats, are located on the first floor. A wide staircase leads from the entrance hall to the food counter, which has been arranged as a free-flow system. Up to 5,000 meals are served here every day. Waiting times are much reduced by the generous arrangement and the free-flow principle. With the dining rooms located on the first floor, visitors enjoy many attractive views. The full storey-high glass facade and additional rooflights provide an excellent amount of daylight, thus ensuring overall high-quality lighting in the public areas. Natural materials, such as the oak parquet in the dining rooms, add to the homogeneous interior design and are also long-lasting, sustainable and cost-efficient. The café lounge with 196 seats and the events room for an additional 60 persons face towards the east, directly overlooking the campus boulevard. The café has its own kitchen and can therefore be operated independently of the refectory. The roof terrace in front has been fitted with a timber deck and provides a relaxed seating area.
In summer, users can also take their meals on the balcony above the main entrance or in the south-facing open area. The production kitchen and food preparation rooms are located in the rear part of the first floor. Generous glazing of the facade provides views to the outside and ensures that daylight is admitted.
The operation of the refectory is subject to considerable fluctuations in numbers of visitors; during term-time, utilisation is high. Outside of term-times, the number of meals drops and the refectory is operated in low turnover mode. In terms of the architecture, this has been accommodated by arranging the two symmetrical dining rooms so that they can be used separately. To further support the separate use, each of the dining rooms has its own crockery return and washing-up system. Public circulation routes are laid out such that crossovers are avoided. Visitors arriving by the main staircase are routed to the free-flow counter. There they choose their meals, pay at the cash desk and then take their seats in one of the two dining rooms. On the way out they return their trays at the returns counter and leave the dining room via a circular staircase directly to the foyer. The arrangement of two separate staircases ensures that incoming and outgoing circulation does not cross over. The new refectory has been designed to accommodate the needs of the disabled and those of students with children. For example, a parent and child area has been provided on the ground floor where parents can feed their children in the breastfeeding corner, and change nappies in a separate room. Furthermore, the facilities for children are enhanced by a separate play area.
Ergonomics and energy optimisation
The kitchen services installations, as well as the general building services, have been designed to suit the needs of users. The kitchen and the preparation areas, including the dessert section, cold kitchen, vegetable and meat preparation areas, have been arranged in direct proximity to each other. The short distances help to optimise the production process. Glazed partitioning between the different areas enhances communication and make direct views possible between units. Each of these units forms its own work area, the technical installations of which have been designed for maximum energy conservation. For example, the two washing-up lines are operated with reduced capacity to save water during low turnover periods. In addition, the lines are fitted with a heat recovery system. The complex kitchen fittings have a data interface which is used to record and read-out technical data for process management. Food waste is discharged in the kitchen and washing-up area at special discharge points, from where it is transported via a closed system to the central wet waste disposal facility on the ground floor. The waste collected in this way can then be transported to a biogas plant.
The design of the kitchen fittings takes into account ergonomic requirements. For example, the main food counters are equipped with bain-marie containers. In order to save having to lift these containers with their contents into the counter, they can be slid into position from the side. Also, the shallow fall of the kitchen floor and the stainless steel channels, have been designed to increase comfort when standing. The tray and plate dispensers have been ergonomically designed in that the fully automatic dish-washing line takes care of unstacking. The new refectory building is the central catering facility at the Westerberg campus used by the University as well as the University of Applied Sciences. The refectory is not only the first component of an urban masterplan, but also the first clear element of a high-profile university location which combines tradition with modernity in an exemplary way.