New Accelerator building
The new Accelerator building, which consists of a Technology Accelerator and an incubator building for Ghent University (UGent) and the Incubation and Innovation Centre of Ghent University (IIC UGent) was designed by SVR-ARCHITECTS – EXILAB – FRAEYE&PARTNERS in consultation with the services of Ghent University and IIC UGent. It is scheduled to be built on the new ‘Eiland’ site in Zwijnaarde, on the outskirts of Ghent.
The compact, rectangular building consists of five floors above street level and one floor connected to the lower-lying plot surrounding the building. The first three floors will be used as a research centre by Ghent University for research acceleration and valorisation in the field of resource recovery. These floors will house a combination of modular laboratories, an administrative area set up in line with the principles of the new world of work, a double-height testing hall and other supporting functions. The two upper floors will be set up as an incubator by IIC for spin-off companies. The lower floor connected to the original plot will house a bicycle shed, as well as various storage and waste collection areas for both users. As such, all the facilities of this Accelerator building will be integrated on-site.
The design is based on the function of the building (a laboratory), the location of the site and sustainable construction (BEN principle = almost energy-neutral). The lay-out of the building takes account of the orientation of the site and its direct surroundings. The laboratories face the city (north) to avoid excess heat in the air-conditioned spaces. The offices enjoy breath-taking views of the green wooded area and the branch of the river Scheldt.
For safety reasons, the building concept does not feature a clear division between logistic flows and staff flows, both in the access points to the building and in its internal organisation. The two concrete cores of the building house the vertical circulation area and sanitary facilities. By positioning the cores on the outer ends, the uninterrupted floor surface can be freely partitioned and it can easily be adapted to suit other functions in the future.
The architecture of the building respects the concept of the quality plan that was developed for this site, with a sober and solid design. The façade gives a glimpse of the functions it houses through the use of specific materials and the window set-up. The activities in the double-height testing hall are visible from the outside and the social halls enjoy unrestricted views of the Scheldt valley. The traditional windows are framed by an aluminium canvas, creating a dynamic play of light and shadows on the façade depending on the position of the sun.
Networking is key
The concept of the innovation accelerator focuses fully on promoting spontaneous networking between the various research teams and start-ups, mainly by creating open collaboration spaces and social spaces in strategic positions where people often walk past, such as vertical circulation areas and open spaces with open staircases connecting several floors.
The incubator part will have a very flexible lay-out, allowing for it to be set up for several functions depending on the needs of the companies. Moreover, as it is connected with the roof level, it is easy for additional technical equipment to be installed in the dedicated shafts.
In a nutshell, the new building for Ghent University and IIC boosts a logical, adjustable set-up and a clear identity.