The decision has been made: the City Centre Campus is coming. The Faculty of Humanities (FGw) and the University Library (UB) will be located there, possibly alongside the executive staff.
The main occupants of the campus will be Humanities and the University Library. Furthermore, a number of other functions may well be added to the campus's programme, such as an area for the Board, a conference room, more space for events and an Aula for the conferral of doctorates. ‘The vibe of the City Centre Campus will be much more UvA than just FGw or UB’, says Gerard. And according to Maria, this will ensure that the campus adds value to the UvA as a whole. In addition to the expansion of the programme, two scenarios have been elaborated into a preliminary design. One scenario is the current situation, in which the University Library is located on the Binnengasthuis premises, while in the other, the UB is situated in the Oudemanhuispoort premises.
The development of a second scenario is due in part to the events of 2015 (occupation of the Maagdenhuis, ed.). Maria and Gerard describe the addition of extra functions within both scenarios as ‘evolving insight’. ‘All developments in 2015 have resulted in a broader perspective’, says Maria. After all, the City Centre Campus is the most vital campus with regard to the UvA's image. Gerard: ‘Universities are often visually represented by a number of historic buildings linked to the university's history. For the UvA, that means the Oudemanhuispoort, amongst other buildings. Up to now, the City Centre Campus may well have been viewed as the location for FGw and the UB, but it has greater potential: it represents the UvA as a whole.’ Cees: ‘We are examining how we can optimally use the City Centre Campus location. And the rethink means we now have the opportunity to incorporate the lessons learned from other campuses.’
Cees sees the City Centre Campus as the crowning glory of all the campuses. ‘This campus can become the central location for UvA-wide events, as the Oudemanshuispoort is traditionally viewed as the heart of the UvA. It's a real gem. The UvA is already in discussion with parties who wish to establish themselves in or around this ‘University District’.’ He explains that in recent years, the UvA has worked towards the realisation of four open city campuses. The City Centre Campus is the fourth and last of these. ‘This assumes financial, intrinsic and moral solidarity between all faculties, as was the case with the other campuses that have already been built: the Amsterdam Science Park and Roeterseiland complex.’
‘What is the goal? In a number of years, the City Centre Campus will be the place to be for students’, says Cees. ‘It covers an area that is greater than those around the Oudemanhuispoort and Binnengasthuis premises. We are also striving to achieve energy neutrality, for example, by using geothermal heating, which will significantly reduce accommodation costs. The Municipality of Amsterdam also wishes to contribute to this. It is a rustic recreational area, in contrast to the busy Rokin and Red Light District. I'd like to see plenty of courtyards.’ The university will be prominently represented in the area by all of the students and employees, and of course, the residents will also be part of the local ambience. It will not be an area with a lot of tourists. Gerard describes it as ‘a haven where you can catch your breath after the hectic pace of Dam Square and the Red Light District.’ According to Cees, the decisions regarding the detailed make-up of the campus should be based on the vision of the City Centre Campus as a showpiece for the UvA.
If it was up to the three directors, the choice facing the academic community would be between two detailed scenarios including extra UvA-wide functions, including solid financial underpinning. ‘In our opinion, it's a decision that should be made at the area level’, says Maria. Key issues regarding the decision include (amongst others): Are we prepared to make investments in quality? Are the accommodation costs in proportion to the effective facilitation of education, research and valorisation? Do we wish to relocate our administrative centre to the City Centre Campus? Is the project as a whole financially viable? Are the maintenance costs reasonable? In short, the main question is ‘what would be the most effective and future-proof campus design?’
The scenarios must be formulated into a preliminary design to enable the academic community to make the right choice. Therefore, the start of construction – which was previously scheduled for 2016 – will be delayed. However, according to Cees, the UvA can still achieve the original prognosis (completion of the entire City Centre Campus by 2023/25, ed.) ‘We are currently investing extra time in solid preparation together with the academic community, local residents and the municipality. Proper preparation includes matters such as setting up a programme of requirements and applying for permits, in order to enable construction to begin in 2018. We are striving to ensure efficient execution for all parties concerned throughout the entire area, taking care of everything in one go.’
The region needn't fear a huge number of vacant buildings. Gerard: ‘We are doing everything we can to prevent this. We owe this not only to the residents, but also to the employees that are already there, such as Art History, Cultural Studies, Special Collections and the Allard Pierson Museum. And this is not to mention the employees that will be moving to the Bushuis and the Oost-Indisch Huis in the next few months. For example, on the ground floor of the former Service and Information Centre, ‘Vox-pop’ will soon be set up, featuring ‘pop-up’ initiatives such as exhibitions and lectures organised by students, employees and local residents. The UvA Real Estate Development Department will also be established here.’