Thomas Laguea

Master of Architecture

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NB. Views and opinions of students in the degree show are their own and do not represent the views of the University.


Studentenstad Rotterdam (Student City Rotterdam)

M.Arch. Design Thesis

Modular Student Accommodation Project

Concept and Ethos 

Studentenstad means Student City in Dutch. The Student Accommodation project, located right in the heart of Rotterdam’s City Centre, creates the opportunity for a new vibrant and young student environment within walking distance of major landmarks and significant buildings around the City of Rotterdam.

Given the centrality of the location, with the Markthal at walking distance as well as the World Trade Center Rotterdam and the Beurs main metro line, a student staying at Studenenstad has everything within arm’s reach. College and university buildings are closeby and this central living aims to assist in the development and building up of students.

At Studentenstad, there is the option of renting a room for a single night or for the length of a whole academic term. The flexibility that this model creates, allows for the constant change of interaction between the more passing guests, who add to the overall atmosphere, and the more permanent stayers.

The focus of the project was to refurbish and adapt the use of three redundant office buildings in the City Centre.

Located on Westewaagenstraat, the three buildings constructed in the early 1950s are post-war buildings which the City Council are sensitive to.  The project’s aim was to protect their integrity, by creating a modular prefabricated room type which would coordinate in dimensions and slot into the existing concrete frames of the three buildings.

To further add to the ethos and nature of the project, I decided to use a unitised curtain wall and white cladding system which would act as the building’s seal, as well as create a pure, newness of life to the surrounding area as well as a fresh contrast to the adjacent church built in the 15th century.

Adding to the regeneration philosophy, there were several important and critical components to the scheme. One of these was to create a public realm and social hub which would incorporate the ground floors of the three buildings, serving as restaurants, and add to the atmosphere and the surrounding social settings. The new atmosphere which would be created here would be spilling over to the landscaped areas in between the buildings.

Located right on the canal of Delftsevaart, opposite the Grotekerkplein and the Grote of Sint-Laurenskerk (Church), the proposal creates a linking bridge which serves as a living room and common socialising area for the students. Here they can enjoy the views as well as navigate through and access all three buildings and their respective facilities.

Studentenstad offers a variety of bedroom types, all with balconies, which interact with the City Centre and landscaped areas. These landscaped areas provide benches in order to relax, absorb and enjoy the surrounding context, most importantly the Delftsevaart Canal and the Grote of Sint Laurenskerk.

Creating a student accommodation project in the City Centre of Rotterdam enables students to interact with others in the area and learn more about the city they live in.

The Prefabricated Module

The Prefabricated SIP Panel Module uses a Lightweight Steel frame as its primary structure (for rigidity in transportation).  It’s volumetric dimensions of 4800mm x 2400mm x 2400mm work well with the existing three building frames. Various other options were tested out in the design process, but this arrangement was the most efficient and appropriate.

The example drawn on this sheet contains the addition of a 2400mm length by 600mm deep storage wall which contains extra wardrobe, cupboard and a designated workspace. This extra piece replaces the SIP Panels on one of its sides.

Although ‘micro’ in size, the module performs all the relevant criteria a student accommodation bedroom should have. As seen on the daily activity plan on the right hand side, you can see the different station points the module has.

The bedroom with its own private en-suite wetroom and modular furniture, allows for plenty of storage space, and is finished with an ash wood, in order to create a warm cosy feel and contrast slightly with the external white cladding.  The retractable sofa bed also maximises space when not used for sleeping.

The large double glazed sliding doors allow access onto an external balcony (which is fixed onto the existing concrete frame of the building(s)) where the user can interact with the public realm below as well as Rotterdam’s City Centre.

Tectonic Statement

One of the fundamental principles Studentenenstad undertakes is the genre of adaptive reuse. By keeping the existing three concrete frames of the original buildings on Westewaagenstraat, the new build is already achieving an efficient and sustainable criteria with the statement “the greenest building is the one that already exists” as published in the Architectural Journal (2019) at the forefront of this design endeavour.

With the prices of houses and construction on the rise, this methodology behind building by upgrading and reusing rather than replacing and demolishing is more apt than ever.

In order to make the most of the existing frames, I designed a prefabricated modular room pod, with it’s own private en-suite wetroom and modular furniture, to fit universally and efficiently into all three of the buildings‘ frames.

As seen on the typical residential layouts, corridor space is minimised and livable space is maximised.

The prefabricated room modules are constructed from structurally insulated panels which fix onto a white aluminium steel frame aimed at achieving rigidity during transportation. The ash wood finish both internally and externally creates a warm cosy feel which can make the student feel at home.

The prefabricated balconies that fix onto the existing concrete structures of the respective three buildings also follow the coordinated dimensions of my design which also includes the united curtain wall, cladding system and bridge structure. The furniture in the living room spaces, restaurants, landscape benches below as well as the other facilities around the building also do the same. Everything lines up and is coordinated with the intention to minimise onsite work, where all the planning for the project has been done beforehand and manufactured in a factory and delivered ready to be placed/ fixed on site.

Studentenstad’s overall look, coordination, colour and feel is reminiscent of Richard Meiers’ projects creating a pure and harmonious effect with the busy city it contrasts with. It is also very transparent, allowing for views towards the Cathedral and Grotekerkplein to be unobstructed.

Efficiency has been the key aspect, driving force and ethos behind my project, and consequently all the major design decisions have arrived from this.