In recent years, this desire to understand the natural world has taken on critical urgency, as we have begun to appreciate the cycle between our impact on the world and the world’s impact on us. Globalization may bring prosperity as it delivers plant and animal species into non-native territories, but has a flipside: previously unseen exotic diseases flourish against underdeveloped immunities. The new veterinary institute at Campus Ås focuses on this issue, in particular, bringing together scientists, researchers, practitioners, and students together in a kind of complex architectural organism.
A tenuous balance of contradictions lie at the heart the Veterinary Institute and Faculty of Veterinary Medicine at Campus Ås, the newest addition to the Norwegian University of Life Sciences just south of Oslo. We saw the project as the bridging of gaps: between great and small, hazardous and safe, clinical and human, isolated and connected. Rather than try to join the mass under a single roof, the building’s program distributes in a number of smaller modules that break down the scale and bring a level of intimacy to the project.
The true scope of the mass, despite encompassing more than 63,000m2 of occupiable floor space, feels smaller as it distributes between eight wings whose elevations rise hardly more than four stories. The highly sensitive (and even hazardous) spaces the building houses, such as infectious disease laboratories and surgical suites are bound in the center, protected by a permeable barrier between the ring of a public program on the campus’ exterior.
Rather than put the entire facility on perpetual lockdown, breaking the project into smaller modules that can be individually locked down as needed allows Campus Ås to take on a public function. Visitors can venture almost all the way into the building’s heart without experiencing the risk intrinsic to the campus’ function.
Despite the open courtyards, warm timber finishes, and the golden blooms on planted rooftops, the public is held at a necessary remove. Researchers, students, and visitors all experience the campus at levels of access proportionate to their authority, weaving a complex web of spaces throughout the building. The logistics of the building are so complex that it is the first of its kind ever to be built in Scandinavia – and was designed to stand the test of time.