Feringa Building

Groningen, Netherlands

Hidden gardens in a new faculty building

On the University Grounds of Rijksuniversiteit Groningen (RUG) the Feringa Building, a new faculty building for the Faculty of Math and Sciences, named after Nobel prize winner prof. dr. B.L. Feringa, will be built. The building will be 62.000m² large en will facilitate college rooms, institutes and labs in which fundamental scientific research will be conducted. The building is organized around four court yards for which Karres en Brands drew the designs.


Because of the location and organization of the building a public walking route from the public transport hub to the campus is situated in the main axis of the building. The four court yards are an integral part of the spatial setup of the building: they’re visible from all college rooms, labs and offices spaces. All users of the building can see the gardens and the people who are in the gardens. However, the entries to the gardens are hidden: how to access them remains unclear. This tension is the starting point for the designs. When one steps into the gardens they appear to have hidden qualities that aren’t visible from the outside.

In the building fundamental research and experiments are conducted in high tech labs. The sharply designed aluminum façade emphasizes the scientific character of the building. The court yards from a stark contrast with the rationality of the building. The gardens offer an alternative to rhetorical and cognitive activities and appeal to various sensory perceptions. They offer a tranquil environment in which one can take a distance to the rationality an intensity of their work or studies. Each garden has its own characteristics: gardens with a hidden view, a hidden experience, and a hidden place each offer a different context and a different perception. The diversity of the gardens contributes to the means for orienting throughout the complex building and offers a calming decor for the working spaces.

The garden with a hidden view has a finely composed composition of plants, a pond, cypresses, foreground and background, depth and light. The composition is visible only from one specific view point. A wooden deck at the pond side offers seating to view this composition.

At first glance the garden with hidden experiences just seems to have an abundance of trees, shrubs and plants. When stepping into the garden one is immersed in the foliage and textures, scents, colors, light and shadows, ruffling leaves, tree canopies above and tiny flowers that grow hidden below the leaves of bigger plants.

The garden with the hidden place consists of a large hill covered in ferns an pine trees. Behind the tip of the hill a cavity is dug out from the hill. The space is barely visible from outside. Narrow steps lead down through the ferns to this hidden space. Her one is surrounded by the abundance of the ferns around and the silhouettes of the pine trees against the sky.

The campus garden is the only garden that does have a clearly visible entrance and also has a more frequent use. Through the glass facades this garden is visible from the surrounding campus and vice versa. With an open grass field and various trees the campus landscape is encompassed into the volume of the building. Terraces for drinks, and special occasions, are designed as a graphic composition of surfaces with fracture lines, folds and cuts. 

Project data
Location ​Groningen, Netherlands Google Maps
Assignment ​Design four courtyards in a new faculty building
Size ​2.275 m²
Design ​2016 – 2017
Construction ​2017 – 2021
Status ​Definitive Design
Client ​University of Groningen
Team ​Bart Brands, Joost de Natris, Sander Vedder, Jeroen Hoogenraad, Thomas Wolfert
In collaboration with ​Ector Hoogstad Architects
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