University Library Utrecht

  • The basis for the living concrete relief in the form of reed-like stems is a motif by Kim Zwarts, which is found on the glass surfaces as well as in the concrete panels.

  • The interplay of textured concrete and glass radiates an unbelievable liveliness and yet achieves a striking clarity at the same time.

  • NOE transformed the two-dimensional photo-motif by Kim Zwarts into a living three-dimensional concrete texture.

  • The outer skin of the University Library consists of an aluminium construction with glass panels glued in place and precast concrete units. The glass panels and the precast concrete units display the same motif, screen-printed onto the glass and cast into the concrete using NOEplast.

  • The reed motif is repeated inside the University Library. It is also reproduced in full detail on the in-situ concrete walls using NOEplast.

The living facade

A plaster model was the only template available to the specialists from NOEplast. They used this model to create the mould for a concrete structure that many architects are discussing, and not only in the Netherlands.

The words are about the University of Utrecht, or more precisely, about the facade of the University Library, which radiates an unbelievable liveliness yet achieves a striking clarity through the interplay of concrete and glass at the same time. The basis for the living concrete relief in the form of fine, reed-like stems is the custom-made NOEplast textured formliner.

The old architects' saying proves itself true again here: a building only works successfully through the interplay of its various materials, which all have their own distinct language of form and colour. The rustling reeds chosen by Dutch architect Wiel Arets for his textured concrete can be traced back to papyrus, the archetypal medium for everything written, while the panels, like sheets of paper, make reference to the university library itself. Wiel Arets, born 1955, was responsible notably for the design of the Academy of Fine Arts and Design in Maastricht, among many other fine buildings.

The NOE engineers' living design concept for the concrete relief on the facade is partially covered by glass elements that sit in front of the panels and continually cast a differing light onto the grey or anthracite coloured concrete, irrespective of the prevailing daylight conditions The concrete, which is made to look as if it is constantly moving by its texture, is calmed by the glass surfaces placed over it, the grey to black colours reinforce this effect. In the library's reading room, the textured facade jumps back and forms the rear wall of the room, which is flooded with light through a huge glass facade, adding to the illumination of the concrete.

A total of 480 m² of NOEplast textured formliners in 2 x 5 m sheets gave the negative for the precast units, which also lend a special expression to the facade through their vertical arrangement. There can be no doubt that Wiel Arets has earned a top spot in architectural history with the main library at the University of Utrecht on the “De Uithof” campus and the rustling of reeds captured on the NOEplast; these NOEplast textured formliners leave behind a bold fingerprint in the ranks of eternal concrete structures!

NOEplast textured formliners can be used with the same precision on site with in-situ concrete as they can be in the precasting works, with the robustness of the PU formliners allowing 100 or more reuses. Further information about the wide range of different textures is available in the 125-page specialist NOEplast catalogue, which is available free of charge.