Student accommodation & research wing at Bifröst Business School

The new student accommodation and research wing is the third building on the Bifröst campus designed by Studio Granda. It is one of a series of new buildings outlined in the master plan that has also been developed by the office.

Bifröst is an area of exceptional landscape that has largely escaped the hand of man. The site is dominated by extinct volcanic craters and wrapped in a shawl of mossy lava. Rivers and lakes writhe through the forested valleys below the school and all is contained within a mountainous horizon. This special location is one of the main attractions and amenities for the school and great emphasis has been placed on its preservation in the development of the schools expansion plans.

The program required fiftyone residential units, of which six for students with impaired mobility, a large reading room, open office space, cellular offices and meeting facilities. The building should house laundry facilities for the entire campus, significant storage space and be designed and built for a less than an adequate budget.

The challenge was to the bridge the divide between the scale of environmental ambition and a brief that required the largest single structure on campus. The plan is rational with laundry, service and storage spaces located in the basement. If there is a future change of use more options are possible due to the large windows that look onto a rock-lined pocket on the northeastern side. 

The reading, office and meeting facilities occupy the ground floor with a fully glazed wall facing the university quadrangle. This window strip extends beyond the building on the northeastern corner to overlook the rocky pocket below. A large mustard coloured wall, one of the principal colours of the campus, marks the main entrance from the quadrangle. The colour extends into the vertiginous four-storey void of the lobby that is punctuated by a patchwork of windows to the exterior and the adjacent stairwell, mirroring the patchwork skin of the upper three floors. Day lighting is sufficient for most of the year but during the dark winters a bank of fluorescent lights form a synthetic window on the one unperforated wall.

The flats are on the upper three floors arranged about a central corridor with exposed pre-cast concrete elements. The accommodation is minimal but given a sense of grandeur with a full-height entrance door, abundant daylight and a huge shower, an oblique interpretation of the bathroom size demanded by the building regulations.

The building was built in the heart of the campus with a minimum of disruption by precasting all primary wall and floor elements at a local factory. This economic technique has ensured excellent durability and sound insulation between flats. Furthermore the long, hollow core, prestressed spans over the basement and ground floor spaces guarantee future flexibility.

The building is clad in copper sheet corrugated with the same rollers that are usually used for the production of corrugated steel, a common building material in Iceland. Although the purchase cost of copper is high fabrication and installation costs are the same as steel and the finish is both beautiful and maintenance free. Window units stagger in a patchwork pattern across the façades minimising the risk of fire spread between floors. A copper shelf below each window band was calculated to secure the fire control and a red fire escape stair articulates the northwestern corner.

In the pure arctic climate copper quickly develops a rich leathery patina. The rippling brown walls and graphic fenestration collectively create a subtle dazzle-pattern that blends the significant mass of the building into its surroundings. Seen from the high crater’s rim the rough lava and moss roof merges into the fractured terrain of the surrounding lava field.

Client : Vidskiptaháskólinn Bifröst
Architects : Studio Granda
Structural Engineers : Teiknisofan Odinstorg
Piped Services : Teiknisofan Odinstorg
Mechanical services : VGK
Electrical services : Bragi Thor Sigurdórson
Fire consultancy : VSI

Contractor : Loftorka

Further reading...

Nominated for Sjónlist The Icelandic Visual Arts Awards, Design Award 2006

on site 30.05.06
on site 07.10.05
on site 25.09.05
on site 12.08.05
on site 04.05.05
on site 20.04.05
on site 09.03.05
on site 03.02.05
on site 25.01.05
on site 15.12.04
on site 29.10.04
on site 14.07.04