Open as of September 2022, the new Jakoba Mulderhuis building at the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences accommodates up to 7 000 students from the Faculty of Technology.

Designed in collaboration between Powerhouse Company, Marc Koehler Architects, and de Architekten Cie, the BREEAM "Excellent" building comprises a 13-storey tower and a low-rise 6-storey section across 25 000 m2.

An impressive atrium forms the "pivot" of the building and stimulates connection in numerous ways. Here, 400 m2 of the monolithic ceiling solution Rockfon Mono Acoustic was installed by VAB Afbouwgroep from underneath scaffolding.

Atrium Design That Acts as an Educational Theatre 

The Jakoba Mulderhuis is a special project for Marc Koehler of Marc Koehler Architects and Nanne de Ru, the founder of Powerhouse Company. They completed their bachelor's degrees at the university back in 1999. “We’re part of the first batch of students who followed project-based education”, says De Ru. “Our lessons were given in the Leeuwenburg: a concrete colossus initially designed as an office building with many rooms, small windows, and low ceilings. As a result, we only had an idea of what other students in our building were doing. When the render for the Jakoba Mulderhuis came up, we saw a great opportunity to break this structure and give project-based education the place it deserves”.

The atrium plays an essential role in this, he explains. “Thanks to open educational floors with protruding terraces, students can look inside each other’s spaces. The atrium has thus become a kind of educational theatre where students can present themselves to each other and to the outside world”.

The atrium is bordered on one side by the Theo Thijssenhuis building, whose natural stone facade was renovated just before the start of the Jakoba Mulderhuis, says Stefan Prins, architect and partner at Powerhouse Company. “For the new additions, we opted for light materials and neutral colours as much as possible, allowing the students’ work to be even more spotlighted. This also allows daylight to flow in softly and gently, avoiding strong contrasts. The atrium roof follows this principle, consisting of large white steel frameworks filled with glass and dark grey acoustic panels. This design strengthens the shape of the construction and prevents reverberation. A wooden slat finish at the level of the floor edges, stairs, and balustrades emphasises the lining of the terraces”.

A Refined Ceiling Solution to Ensure Excellent Atrium Acoustics

The atrium forms the aesthetic heart of the building, but maximising functionality in the 54-metre-high space was no easy task, emphasises Prins. “Right after the design approval, we engaged various consultants who thought intensively about daylight entry and acoustics. This led to extensive acoustic calculations. The main conclusion from these calculations was that all sound must be addressed directly at the source, for instance, to prevent sound from the floors flowing into the atrium. To achieve this, almost all elements in the atrium that one can touch serve an acoustically absorbing function – from floors to floor edges and ceilings”.

All educational spaces are equipped with cooling ceilings. In areas where cooling ceilings were not necessary, such as in the corridor zones, the seamless Rockfon Mono Acoustic ceiling system was installed. Prins is very satisfied with the solution, which is neater than a suspended ceiling. “The high-quality white finish also contributes to the generous, light, and fine atmosphere that we had in mind”. Rockfon Mono Acoustic combines an innovative monolithic surface with extraordinary acoustic comfort and excellent fire protection, says Jan de Jong, Area Sales Manager at Rockfon. “The refined white surface also has high light reflection and diffusion, ensuring even light distribution and reducing the need for artificial lighting”.

At the base of the system are panels with a stone wool core, onto which three refined acoustic renders are sprayed. By applying the render in three layers, both horizontally and vertically, just enough air is left between the spray granules to achieve the highest absorption value. This also creates a smooth and seamless system that enhances the aesthetics of its surroundings.

Primarily due to the ceiling heights of the protruding floors, a large part of the operations had to be carried out from within the scaffolding. From constructing the ceilings to sanding, plastering, sanding again, and applying the spray layers, while considering intermediate drying times. “It’s a significant task that required precise preparation and coordination”, said De Jong. “I visited the construction site several times to stay informed of the progress. How is the assembly going? Are there gaps or problems? And how can Rockfon offer support here?”

The building meets the Dutch guidelines “Programma van Eisen Frisse Scholen” and received the prestigious BREEAM “Excellent” certification, for which Rockfon Mono Acoustic helps earn credits.

Right after the design approval, we engaged various consultants who thought intensively about daylight entry and acoustics. This led to extensive acoustic calculations. The main conclusion from these calculations was that all sound must be addressed directly at the source, for instance, to prevent sound from the floors flowing into the atrium.

Stefan Prins

Architect, Powerhouse Company
Location:Amsterdam, Netherlands
Architect:Powerhouse Company, Marc Koehler Architects, Architekten Cie
Installer:VAB Afbouwgroep Volendam
Photographer:Sebastian van Damme
Tiles:Rockfon® Mono® Acoustic
Edges:TE Elegant Render

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