ProjectsNew Department of Human Sciences in Lausanne

Communication, interaction and cohesion are the keywords behind the design choices of the New Department of Human Sciences of Lausanne. From the beginning we imagined not a simple building but a stimulating, sustainable and open place.


Openness and connection are at the heart of our design: opening towards the Internef, Extranef and Anthropole buildings in order to promote and strengthen the connection and identity of the faculties concerned. The NDHS lives in the middle of nature, with and for it: the forest, the extension towards the lake and the plain make the building’s layout stand out while perfectly integrating it with the surrounding nature.

Date 2021

State Competition

Location Lausanne, Switzerland

Category Education

Designing for people and their comfort. Working thoroughly on the analysis of the space and the optimal position of the new building through bioclimatic and urban planning studies of the area was an essential part of the design process. Wind and light are building materials in this project. The positioning of the building in the northern part of the intervention perimeter allows you to take advantage of the prevailing summer winds from the west, channeling this energy inside the full-height atrium, creating a space that is completely free of air conditioning and highly efficient.


In order to minimize the effect of the prevailing winter winds coming from the North-East, the excavation ground was designed to create a green hill with tall shrubs that protect the building and the space facing it from  the noise produced by the nearby Lausanne-Geneva motorway. Through the study of light and shadows, it was also verified that the shape and positioning had a reduced impact on the neighboring buildings so as not to create shadows on them.⁠

The building takes inspiration from the natural and linear shapes of the nearby Dorigny forest

Its location and small footprint also ensure the fluidity of public spaces and continuity of paths during the future development of the East campus. The outdoor spaces are real meeting and interaction places on the campus. The pedestrian paths easily and organically connect all the buildings through different types of landscape, such as the large squares with permeable paving equipped to allow comparison and dialogue between students outside the buildings. To the west, large terraces welcome the wide meadows that leaf through and cross the building, harmoniously reconnecting with the landscape to the east. 


Embraced by green hills, the flat area of the gardens is a place of learning and recreation for students and a resource of fresh products for the adjacent campus canteen. The driveways and parking areas for bicycles and motor vehicles have been located around the perimeter of the intervention area, in order to preserve and implement pedestrian well-being and accessibility. Tree species favor native species, with a balance between broad-leaved trees and conifers, able to guarantee a climatic well-being of outdoor spaces both in summer and in winter.

Architectural Concept

The building takes inspiration from the natural and linear shapes of the nearby Dorigny forest. A shower of thin and scattered columns and the light that passes through them, recreate the spell of a space that can be crossed as much as it is protected from the surrounding noises. The diaphanous volume opens up to the surrounding landscape while the sloping green planes express openness and accessibility for all. Taking advantage of the unevenness of the intervention area, sloping green planes leaf through each other, designing a public space where it is pleasant to study, work and relax.


A space for relationship, sharing and meeting that unites the faculties and creates a place of identity for the UNIL Campus. Below these green floors, the spaces dedicated to the conference rooms, the foyer and the full-height entrance hall are hidden. Entering the 32-meter high hall, the openness, transparency and lightness of the rain of slender white columns shielding the large side staircase, contrast with the robustness and materiality of the exposed concrete service / elevator block that stands out up to the large glazed skylight. Between them, light, transparency and external / internal permeability will welcome students, staff and visitors to the building as they enter.

Comfort is probably the most important factor for people’s health and well-being, and all the materials present in a building’s interior have an impact on the comfort of the occupants. ⁠⁠

In order to preserve the landscape and allow future developments of the Campus towards the East, the footprint of the building is reduced to a minimum. Above the green inclined planes, the main volume stands out, characterized by a forest of columns that shield, like tree branches, a highly glazed architecture performing and reflecting the continuous mutations of the surrounding landscape. The new building becomes a natural part of a set of autonomous buildings but connected by the large public space of exchange and cohesion. In this way, an open connection was created between the buildings of the Campus, the city and the users of the new building. The transparency that characterizes the architecture continues in the interiors, where as many possible functions are visually connected. The ground floor was designed as a lively meeting place that mediates the transition between the built space and the natural external environment.


There will be a restaurant with a 150-seat refectory, two self-service kitchens for the preparation of meals by students and an outdoor space sheltered by slender columns arranged in an apparently random manner. The restaurant is a dynamic and flexible place: from an open space where students eat their meals at the set time to an informal place for both individual and group study. The 1st floor houses the hall of the faculty in a space completely projected towards the surrounding nature thanks to the large windows that enclose it. From floors 2nd to 6th, we designed a flexibly divisible serving ring around the central space at full height, where the classrooms and offices were located. There are no corridors and dead ends but spaces and places of exchange distributed on all floors and visually connected to each other, thus promoting a sense of unity. The opening allows people on different floors to identify each other and promote the overview and orientation, as well as allowing the entrance and diffusion of a wave of natural light in the building.

Design with Local Materials

Reinforced concrete was chosen for the load-bearing structure. This choice was dictated by the desire to use a material that is easily available locally and which does not have an excessively high environmental impact. In addition, all the projecting external elements in concrete will be produced using the prefabrication system which allows to contain the CO2 footprint and therefore to reduce the intrinsic gray energy of the individual elements and of the building as a whole. This method will favor the speed of execution of the work, the construction site and will also reduce the pollution associated with the management of the construction site and the construction of the building. The construction type provides for a platform foundation cast on site on poles and reinforced with a bidirectional steel bar mesh. The pillars of the basement will also be cast in place, prefabricated those that set from the ground floor up. The latter will have a diameter between 40 and 60 cm and will be arranged according to a regular structural grid based on modules of 8 m of span.


The two cores, with the function of vertical distribution and service, will be in reinforced concrete cast on site. The internal horizontal partitions, with a total thickness of 70 cm, were conceived as elements with intrados in exposed concrete. The external overhanging parts of the floor have been designed as prefabricated elements with a depth of 150 cm. These elements will be anchored punctually to the edges of the slabs of the internal floors allowing the housing of insulating material to limit thermal bridges and forming an external crowning along the entire facade to which the recycled aluminum rods are anchored. The new building does not have a conventional facade.


All the functions of a facade – light and view for users, protection from the sun and rain, stability and structure – are equally and actively involved in shaping the exterior of the building. Conventionally, protection from rain and sun and even the structure is assigned a subordinate architectural role. In the project we integrated all these functions into a linear and three-dimensional system, whose vertical alignment follows gravity, like the structure and rainwater. The system is completed by the horizontal cantilever elements that generate an orthogonal fabric and soften the materiality of the glass.The rods with a circular section that run vertically along the façade at full height will be elements in recycled aluminum and will also serve as means for collecting rainwater. This choice will make possible to use a light and resistant material whose gray energy footprint will be reduced by choosing only elements produced starting from recycled materials.

Particular attention was also paid to the materials and their gray energy imprint in the choice of interior coverings. The flooring of floors 0 and -1 will be in concrete, while that of the upper floors in wood, sustainable and locally sourced material. The combination of these choices will ensure that the building meets the objectives of the “Société à 2000 watts” and complies with the SméO protocol.

Ventilation in Mixed Mode: Active and Passive

“Mixed ventilation” provides for maximum exploitation of natural ventilation inside the building in order to minimize the use of mechanical ventilation, limiting its use to the most extreme seasons. The analyzes of the annual climatic conditions in Lausanne show that natural ventilation is able to guarantee adequate passive cooling by not requiring excessive use of air conditioning. The internal layout of the offices, organized in rooms arranged on the perimeter of the facade and not characterized by a great depth, is highly efficient due to the potential of natural ventilation. Each room has the possibility of having panels on the facade that can be opened outwards, manually controlled by each user. An electronic system indicates whether the window panel can be opened or not, in relation to the external climatic conditions. In the event that a window is accidentally left open at night, in adverse weather conditions, the system can identify such “open” windows and alert the management to close them. Therefore, this proposal creates a design solution capable of interacting with the environment, offering the end user a high level of control. In addition, the electronic sensor installed on the windows is able to deactivate the air conditioning system if it works with the window open. This eliminates the risk of any energy waste.

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