To solve the most pressing challenges of the future, we’ll need the best minds from multiple fields to collaborate. That’s why the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) decided to bring together students from different disciplines and backgrounds into one central hub.
Currently, NTNU has campuses in the Norwegian cities of Ålesund, Gjøvik and Trondheim, where activities are scattered on many different locations around the city. Upon completion of the campus unification process, nearly all 40,000 NTNU students and staff will be based in the same district of Trondheim. This will help address complex societal issues such as sustainability, health and renewable energy, which require insights from technical and scientific fields as well as the humanities.
NTNU sought expertise from WSP for this massive project, which includes 20-30 building lots over a total gross area of 137,000m2. WSP has played a role in management, research, planning and conceptualization for the project, which is currently in its regulatory phase.
As Trondheim's largest ever urban development project, the NTNU campus unification is meant to serve as a model for future public developments in Norway.
“The future is much more complex and requires cross-functional, cross-disciplinary expertise. You need the best heads to work together,” says Tor Arne Wæraas, project manager and advisor at WSP. “Especially for students in their most formative years, to be exposed to other types of thinking, to work with people with different traditions and views on life, it’s very important to learn those skills.”
To make this project a reality, Wæraas and the WSP team analyzed trends in education and research space planning and forecasting. The goal of this process was to understand how best to design a campus that facilitates education, research, innovation, art and business development. To do that, WSP provided proximity analyses and design for “future professional clusters,” which includes meeting places and other future-oriented spaces for work and learning.
This deliberate concept development supports NTNU’s goal of the unified campus serving as a “living laboratory” for everyone connected with the university. After all, the campus consists of more than just students, staff and buildings, Wæraas points out. “There are a lot of cooperating companies, public institutions and governmental entities that are part of the campus and of this project. We have the health sector, other research organizations, municipal and cultural institutions.” WSP provided planning and support for the entire campus innovation infrastructure. The team coordinated with multiple stakeholders to fulfill a variety of priorities, with particular emphasis on environmental sustainability and conservation.
In fact, the campus unification project was originally born out of a need to improve the buildings dedicated to humanities and social sciences. Those buildings, which serve some 10,000 students and faculty, have reached their technical service life. “The university was facing dramatically rising costs,” explains Wæraas. “That’s how this all started – but then the development team saw more potential.” These needs were presented to the Norwegian government who finally gave approval and granted the necessary funds.
Another guiding motivation was to make the entire campus more welcoming overall. The main university buildings, many of which were first constructed in the early 1900s, are rather “introverted,” he adds. “A lot of the reconstruction budget will be used to open up the older buildings.” The new design, which is focused on openness, with a stronger emphasis on shared spaces, represents a major change to academic traditions, says Wæraas: “For the university and the professors, this is a new way of thinking.”