570-ULB Plaine – overall building plan and EM/STIC applied sciences building

ULB – Campus universitaire de la Plaine ULB, Brussels

Winning competition entry. At bidding stage.


The overall building plan

The ULB (Free University of Brussels – French-speaking section) wants eventually to bring together on the campus of la Plaine all the faculties that could have a part to play in setting up a science and technology centre of international renown.

The overall building plan seeks to optimise the energy and environmental criteria with a view to establishing a new rational and unified layout on the site. In function of the programme imposed, on a site covering a surface area of 9.7 ha, the new overall building plan stakes out 101 000 sqm of new built-up areas, maintains 54 000 sqm of existing built-up areas and pulls down 8 440 sqm of buildings.

The new buildings are built according to the cardinal axes and are oriented optimally according to their functions.

The residential blocks are set out on an east-west axis at the edge of the VUB (Free University of Brussels – Dutch-speaking section) site. This is an ideal orientation for housing and also means these blocks are not directly facing the buildings used for teaching and instruction.

The offices and laboratories of the buildings for Applied Sciences, Earth Sciences, Biology, and Chemistry extensions are for the most part afforded a north-south orientation, with a view to optimising solar protection and solar gains.

For reasons of constructive rationality and composition, the new buildings arranged around the “Forum” are aligned along the latter’s orthogonal axes. The extension of the Chemistry Department’s building A also respects the axes of the building against which it is built.

The relatively low height of the new buildings (two storeys to six storeys) means that the existing buildings N-O and B-C remain the highest buildings on the campus, in line with the initial principle of the la Plaine urban planning policy.

Existing or stand-alone small buildings are dealt with in such a way as to open up the site as much as possible towards the city. The T and Ch wings are incorporated in the car parks occupying the base of the residential blocks, and the P00, H and M wings are pulled down (their functions being rehoused).

The road linking the ULB’s two campuses (Solbosch and la Plaine) is dealt with naturally as the main access way leading to and providing a view of the la Plaine site. At the end of this road, a square-cum-park welcomes pedestrians to the campus. This is the most symbolic and most visible place on the site; it amply opens up the campus towards the Boulevard de la Plaine and the Boulevard du Triomphe, as though extending an invitation to the general public in the city. Access to this square is mainly reserved for pedestrians, cyclists and public transport. Vehicle access (other than public transport) is diverted further to the north.

The building housing the new library is built very specifically as if to act as a seminal structure on the square-cum-park, like the Centre d’Action Laïque (CAL), an existing stand-alone building occupying a very symbolic position at the entrance to the site.

The square-cum-park extends alongside various campus buildings like a network of green that links in with and fits into the green spaces of adjacent plots.

The “EM/STIC” building”

The “EM/STIC” building, housing the Electromechanical Engineering (EM) and Information and Communication Science and Technology (STIC) sections, constitutes the first phase of a larger building which, in the overall building plan proposed, houses the campus’s entire Applied Sciences (SA) department.

This first phase covers a surface area of 16 710 sqm (of the 35 520 sqm that the building will boast when complete). It is located in the central area so as to enable maximum flexibility in the construction of the future sections and in order to limit as far as possible any disruption to the existing situation: the Construction and Structural Engineering section will be housed in the south extension and the part housing the Brussels Higher College of Engineering (ISIB) will be in the north extension.

Once completed, the Applied Sciences building will represent about a third of the new surface areas to be built on the campus. At the moment it will thus be the largest building of the new overall building plan.The Applied Sciences building is built on a north-south axis between buildings N, O, B and the CAL. This arrangement offers the following advantages:

– The site on which the building is erected is not built on and is free of any major encumbrance.

– The proximity to buildings N and O enables an efficient synergy, in particular on account of the IT sections of the three buildings being grouped together.

– The building’s north-south layout means most of the offices and laboratories can be to the north or to the south, thus optimising the possibilities of solar protection in the summer and solar gain in winter.

– The building has a south-facing facade, on the new reception square, of which it constitutes a structuring element. It is therefore visible from the city and as soon as you come onto the site. It should be noted that this preferential visibility is acquired from construction of the first phase.

– The arrangement of the new “EM/STIC” building takes advantage of the existing site entrance, located to the north-west, on the Boulevard de la Plaine. It enables access to the new outdoor car parks laid out to the north of the new building, as well as to the unloading platforms of the EM workshops.

– The building has a north-south internal circulation axis that coincides with the site’s circulation axis, linking the main campus entrance to the VUB site.

Buffer areas

The areas located between the different wings of the building form interior courtyards covered and enclosed by “greenhouse”-type glass roofs and glazed louver boards on the facade. They constitute buffer areas which, aside from the many advantages they offer in terms of the building physics (thermal and acoustic comfort, energy consumption, protection from the wind, permeability of the shell, etc.), afford the materials used in the internal elevations lasting protection and create a pleasant living environment. The inner courtyards are ideal spots for people to meet, promote communication and relaxation in all weathers, and turn into genuine living areas.

The fact that the roofs incorporated in these buffer areas have been fitted out with greenery helps enhance the environment of the occupants and offers a pleasant view for all the rooms that draw their daylight from it.

Modulation of the plan and division

The building is modulated on a layout grid of 3 m, which can be divided into 2 x 1.5 m and 4 x 0.75 m. For economic reasons, the project chooses the smallest layout grid from among those suggested by the programming, and divides it by 2 in order to increase the building’s flexibility and adaptability.

This modulation is brought into general use throughout the building according to an orthogonal composition.

The plan is free, with the columns and vertical circulation cores constituting the only fixed load-bearing points. The division is effected using light partitions in plasterboard, universal and easily transformable low-cost building elements, which also guarantee that the unity of appearance is maintained over the course of successive transformations.

Adaptability and durability of the buildings

The “EM/STIC” building is designed with a view to long-term durability:

– Flexibility: all the surface areas are of standard size and construction, the corridors can adopt several positions according to requirements, the interior partition walls are light and the routing of technical ducts and conduits, both vertically and horizontally, is easy at all points of the building.

– Ease of use: all floors are on the same level in order to ensure ease of adaptability to their use in education and research premises, in all the fields of the Applied Sciences. All floors can also be accessed by people with restricted mobility.

– The building’s minimalist architecture, of an industrial and technological character, and rational and unified, is perfectly suited to its function and lends the new Faculty of Applied Sciences an appropriate image.

– The materials are simple, sturdy and standardised, and mostly originate from industrial prefabrication.

– The heights of the storeys are diversified in function of the free heights of the main types of spaces to be housed: workshops (6 m) on the ground floor, laboratories (3.6 m) on the 2d floor, offices (2.6 m) on the 3rd and 4th floors.

Surface area of the site: 97 531 sqm; surface area of the new buildings of the overall building plan: 101 000 sqm; surface area of existing buildings retained in the overall building plan: 54 000 sqm; surface area of the “EM/STIC” building: 16 710 sqm; 2010- ;(01/570).
Winning competition entry. At bidding stage.

Document E41_01/570 -EN Issue of 2016-12-20

Services Performed:

• Environment.
• Landscape.
• Urban planning.
• Architecture.
• Interior architecture.
• Structure.
• MEP engineering.
• Project economics.
• Conceptual energy and environment plan.
• Project management.
• Cost management.
• General coordination.


Architecture and Engineering:
Philippe SAMYN and PARTNERS All projects are designed by Philippe Samyn who also supervises every drawing

Structural Engineering:
Philippe SAMYN and PARTNERS with SETESCO (sister company 1986-2006) or INGENIEURSBUREAU MEIJER (sister company 2007-2015) if not mentioned

Services engineering:
with FTI (sister company since 1989)
if not mentioned


Design Partner:
Philippe SAMYN

Administrative Partner:
Competition and project phases:

Ass. Administrative Partner:
Project phase:
Dimosthènis SPANTOURIS

Competition phase:

Project phase:
Laura BARBARITO, Mariuca CALIN, Katherynne MASTEJ, Giulia PAULETTI, Fanni VAESSEN.

Structure: Structural engineering:
Competition and project phases:
MEIJER manager and Dr Ir Philippe SAMYN manager.

Building services:
Competition and project phases:
FTI (Flow Transfer International sa), Andrew JANSSENS CEO, Jean MICHIELS, Frédéric MICHAUX et Dr Ir Philippe SAMYN Administrators.

Energy consultancy:
Competition and project phases:
Competition phase:
AirSR sprl (Dr Ir D. OLIVARI, Dr Ir Ph SAMYN, Dr Ir F. MASY).

Acoustics counsultancy:
Competition and project phases:

Microclimate consultancy:
Competition and project phases:

Urban planning consultancy:
Competition phase:
AGORA (Rodolphe DEHARD, Serges PEETERS).

Competition and project phases : AMIRATO (Ing. Martine FORGET).


Photo model: Andres FERNANDEZ MARCOS


For plans sections and elevations, please refer to the archives section of the site available from the “references” menu.

570-ULB Plaine – overall building plan and EM/STIC applied sciences buildingFilippo Aimo