A new healthcare phenomenon: Living Lab
Holland Hospital Architects has won the commission to design Living Lab Limburg, a new building to be constructed on the grounds of the Maastricht University Hospital. This is the first in a series of buildings that will form the new Maastricht Health Campus. The completed building will serve as a magnet for the further development of the entire site. Given the purpose of Living Lab Limburg, this is an entirely realistic expectation.
The living lab is a new phenomenon that is generating an unprecedented level of international attention. Living Lab Limburg targets two specific healthcare fields: nutrition and exercise. Whereas before, scientists, producers and consumers were inclined to focus on new needs and developments entirely independently of one another, Living Lab Limburg will unify them by providing an inspirational platform where all three parties can meet, ask questions and exchange scientific knowledge. It is, in fact, a group of ‘knowledge workshops’ where creative scientists, producers and consumers have the opportunity to share their experiences and discoveries in an innovative process. On-site research will be conducted by experts from various disciplines, with the consumers serving as their willing ‘guinea pigs’. The goal is the help scientists identify what it is they should be researching, to help producers translate fundamental knowledge into products and valuable production processes and to help consumers vocalise their need for useful and affordable ergonomic products.
Encouraging the further development of the Health Campus
The Living Lab will be strategically located at the site of the future Maastricht Health Campus, in the northwestern corner of the Maastricht University Hospital grounds. The building, situated at the heart of the campus, should become the link between inside and out and possess the necessary qualities to inspire the further development of the entire area. By establishing itself as an architectural icon, the building will undoubtedly serve this key purpose. The flow of incoming visitors should be funnelled directly to this building. This will not be accomplished with an austere and orthogonal building that stretches the boundaries of the building site. Instead, the ground-level façade should guide visitors toward the entrance and then guide them – from the nearby train station, among other locations – onwards. An ‘intimate’ building like this lends itself perfectly to this concept.
A spiral with no floors
The empty square formed by the building site itself lends itself to a multitude of architectural interpretations, all of which befitting the desired programme. The construction plan and building codes, however, do not allow for a design that would result in the new building becoming as tall as the adjacent hospital building. One option is to position the floors on the periphery of this square to create a large atrium, which would easily allow for future extensions on the inside.
In terms of atmosphere, the Living Lab should be interactive, integrated and actually intimate – common traits of the creative breeding ground. Doing so would require a cohesive floor plan that creates a sense of intimacy and allows for the remaining outdoor space to be utilised for future extensions, while fulfilling a key role in terms of urban planning. To encourage interaction, the building should not be constructed with traditional storeys. Instead, all floors would be tiered and connected by a central mezzanine. Traditional storeys would only minimise the continuity and fluidity of the available floor space, making it harder for people to meet and interact. A spiral-like design, however, would reinforce the continuum in the building and make it easier to convene and collaborate.
The photo impressions reveal that Living Lab Limburg, with its iconic appearance and its adaptable outdoor space, will become a solid and immovable anchor in an amorphous environment. With its distinct shape and special function, it will undoubtedly inspire the further development of the Maastricht Health Campus. Doing so successfully, however, would mean unifying the outdoor space with the interior design. Creating parks and squares will give the area a valuable upgrade. The building has its own bus stop and several taxi stands, which allows for true door-to-door service. The north entrance of the LLL (which is also the north entrance of the azM) is roughly two meters higher than the main entrance on the Forum side and will feature graceful stairs with broadly spaced steps. Due to the physical nature of the site, these stairs will drop a meter or so deeper on the south side. This area lends itself perfectly to the construction of warehouses on this side that can be serviced from the hospital grounds. The entrance of the LLL is directly opposite the newly renovated entrance to the MECC. During conferences, these two buildings will be viewed as each other’s natural counterparts. For larger conferences, the LLL will be able to use the spacious conference halls in the MECC. This will ensure the creation of a new and innovative centre for (preventative) healthcare.
Maastricht Health Campus is born.