Univerium | D Lab / Global Interiors Group | International Architecture Awards 2019

The Univerium is a Student Living Center that brings a new building typology to Baku.  Although Baku has numerous colleges and universities, it has no established center to support the growing community of local and international students.

This project provides vibrant, high quality, and inexpensive student housing in a facility that is designed to provide students with the support and community they will need to thrive at their academic institution.  The building residents are young men and women living away from their families for the first time, dealing with a big city, and academic pressure. They face these new challenges without their friends and families.

The primary goal of the Univerium is to provide a hierarchy of social interactions that provides a nurturing environment for the student in a “family” group, but enables and encourages them to develop their social network as widely and extensively as they wish.  This is achieved by providing a combination of spaces and activities with different levels of private and public interaction and access.

Approximately 800 students will live in four person dormitory rooms that provide privacy for sleeping and studying within a very small social group.

Each floor of approximately 60 – 80 students has its own semipublic social and study spaces.  A TV lounge with kitchen, football table, vending area and study room encourage them to spend as much time as possible out of their rooms, socializing in a larger group.  These areas are accessible to residents of other floors in the building.  On the fifth floor is a student lounge with a roof terrace and cinema room for building wide social functions.

The basement, ground floor and a protected exterior plaza provide publicly accessible facilities for use by the building residents as well as the wider Baku student community.  A cafeteria, group study spaces, gym, basketball court, table tennis tables, skate board park, football area, and an outdoor performance space and all designed to attract other student to the Univerium to create a vibrant and sustainable student community in Baku.

Positioned on a prominent corner of a busy street, the building’s L shape gives it a striking form to enhance the street corner, while providing protection for a student plaza nestled behind it.  Although publicly accessible, the plaza behind the building is a safe place for students to socialize and play. 

The complex is formed by two building volumes that intersect at the corner.  The taller building has a concrete shell that wraps around it and reveals the colourful panels of the interior volume.   At the corner the taller concrete shell hangs over the other low curvilinear second building.  The intersection of the two buildings emphasis the prominent corner and draws visitors to the main entrance at the corner.

The street to the east of the building is on the more commercial street and the facade acknowledges the more cosmopolitan character of the street with a taller and more visually striking facade of colourful concrete panels.  The street to the north of the building is more residential with lower buildings.  This building is lower, and the facade is undulating with vertical fin that softens the building edge as you move along the street towards the park opposite.  There is a fifth floor roof terrace overlooking the park just above tree level.

The main entrance corner entrance services both buildings and has retail on either side.  These draws the public into the building and leads them to discover the rear atrium with access to the plaza as well as the outdoor performance space.  This is the light filled heart of both the Univerium and the Baku student community.  The interior spaces are dynamic and colourful, with a playful mix of colours, materials, and street art that brings a sense of the exciting city to the student community.

Architect: D Lab / Global Interiors Group
Winner- Category: Educational

Project Location: Baku
Project Team: Jonathan Sturt, Clair Reed, Clair Goodwin, Ruslan Hajiev, Gulshan Karimova

Country: Azerbaijan