There were 37 architectural agencies that would have loved to prepare the Tapijn Barracks for use by Maastricht University. Of those, five remained, and that number boiled down to three agencies that submitted a detailed plan. LIAG Architecten from The Hague won the competition; the plan was presented to the university community and interested Maastricht citizens last Monday.
The most noticeable aspect is that a lot of ugliness will be removed. Anyone who walks onto the grounds today, sees an expanse of concrete with small buildings scattered around; in a number of years, they will be surprised. Those buildings, eight in total, will be gone, the concrete will have disappeared, and instead there will be a lot of grass, lots of trees and foot and bicycle paths crossing the site. As far as the last aspect is concerned: not everyone is in agreement but the plan entails a second pedestrian bridge across the Jeker, one that leads to the fortification wall in the direction of the Tongersestraat. So an opening will have to be made there. This is to make it easier to create a link with the Jesuit monastery, the SBE building.
Another remarkable thing is the fact that existing larger buildings will continue to stand alone, no connecting buildings will be erected which could interfere with the open character of the grounds. There will be a large new building with a lecture hall and offices and a ‘plinth’ sunken into the ground – that will connect the existing and new buildings. This will not be an underground corridor, on the contrary, the earth will be dug out so that light can also enter through the side of the ‘plinth’. The earth that is left over will later be used to create the undulating appearance of the grounds, which even includes a ‘Wi-Fi hill’. Whether the latter will actually be created, is doubtful, as the university has raised questions about the height of the hills. There are also questions about the design of the new building, which will be a real eye-catcher, with expanses of glass and a variety of vertical metal strips (Corten steel). This design is not final yet, confirmed Nick Bos from the Executive Board during the presentation.
The layout of the park will be modelled on the English landscape style, with meandering paths and occasional groups of trees. A safe shortcut to Jekerdal will be created by building an underground tunnel underneath the Prins Bisschopssingel, safe for cyclists and pedestrians and possibly also for foxes, because they have already been sighted in the neighbourhood. There will be a catering establishment on the premises – the present brasserie is in a building that will be demolished – which will be accessible to the general public. Parking facilities will be created around the periphery, hidden away, and there will be racks for 750 bicycles. Not in one place, because students are prone to park their bicycles as close as possible to where they need to be, the creators of the plan reported, but in several places.
In March, the project will be discussed again separately with UM students, in order to hear their ideas on the proposals. The city council will decide about the zoning plan this summer, after which the final design should be ready by the end of the year. Then work can start; if everything goes according to plan, it will be completed by 2020. Delays due to legal action by neighbouring residents are not expected. The UM will inject at least 25 million euro into the project, the upper limit not being yet clear, said project leader for the UM René Verspeek.