Bringing a campus back to life - The Polak Building

What sustainable and multifunctional architecture looks like in Rotterdam.

Published by Laura M. on 30/09/2015

About 3 years ago I arrived in Rotterdam and started a PhD at Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University. That is when I also discovered the Woudestein Campus, neatly located in the east side of the city. Within only 3 years though, the face of the campus has changed, it is still changing, and it will probably continue to change.

This constant transformation came to be known as ‘The Campus under Constructionproject - a good example of ‘it’s shitty now, it will be better later’. The end result: a lively campus. And it’s really getting there!

I remember when this project started back in November 2012 that things felt out of place and disorganized. Within only a month since I started to work there, the area seemed to be a huge construction site rather than a lively campus. I often found myself walking around fences trying to find my way from one building to another - and I bet many shared my experience. Back then, it literally felt like ‘it’s shitty now’.

However, after 3 years, the ‘it will be better later’ part starts to surface. We now see some of the long-awaited results.

One clear example of such results is a recently finished building - the Polak Building. The building is named after a famous business economist in Rotterdam: Nico Jacob Polak.

Among others, he is known for giving meaning to the then young field of business economics. Yet, to most students he is probably famous only because the building has his name. But there is more to this new construction than its name. It is in fact, in many ways, unique.

Layered external façade

From the outside, the Polak Building might seem as nothing more than another cube-shaped modern building. At least, this was my first impression of it. Yet, as I would soon come to discover there was more to this layer-look design than meets the eye. The layers are actually called lamellas and have varying depths, depending on which side of the building you are looking at.

Adding to their unique identity, the lamellas allow fresh air to enter the building and protect the glass from direct sunlight. Though I bet that such details often go unnoticed, particularly to the untrained eye, they might be the future of sustainable design.

Sustainable, functional, and dynamic interior

Unlike the exterior, the interior truly captivated me from the moment I entered the building. The very first thing that caught my attention was the unique set of stairs - stairs that remind me of a famous print by Maurits Cornelis Escher.

And rightly so because the first time you try to find your way around it might feel like walking through a maze. But it’s worth it. 

Following the principle of ‘natural if possible, mechanical if necessary’, the architect Paul de Ruiter combined natural and sustainable materials (such as oak and solar cells) to create a truly sustainable building.

Smart lighting and energy recycling are but a few of the characteristics that make the Polak Building the most sustainable construction on campus to date.

Rising on 5 floors, the Polak Building is not just sustainable but also multifunctional. Aside from lecture rooms situated on the first 3 floors, the building is home to about 900 workstations ideal for both team-based and individual-based work.

Yet, one peculiar detail about some of the workstations that I adore is the charging docks falling out of the ceiling. If anything, they give a unique industrial feeling to a newly build space.

Something extra

And if the above were not enough, on the ground floor you can find a hairdresser, a laundry store, a campus store, and soon enough the Erasmus Sustainability Hub will move here. Talk about being a multifunctional building.

It’s almost like a city within the campus within the city. Definitely worth a visit! Opening times for the Polak Building can be found here

- Laura M. -

Continue reading on A City Made By People