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Medieval attic at Faculty of Philosophy to return to original state with modern facilities

12 June 2018

It is one of the oldest buildings in the city centre, and originally a medieval stone-built house – the Faculty of Philosophy building from c. 1300 at Oude Boteringestraat 52. The attic of this building, under the high, steep oak roof beams, is going to be carefully turned into an office area for 14 PhD students while preserving its historicity. The designs are ready. The renovation work will start 11 June 2018.

The attic is currently used for storage, but the growth of the Faculty means that this space will also have to be made functional. The most important changes will be to improve accessibility and the installation of roof insulation, ventilation, heating and skylights as well as electricity and data cabling. The restoration architecture has been tendered out to Kijlstra Brouwer so that the atmosphere of the old attic will be preserved. Both the Faculty and the Listed Buildings Committee are full of praise for the restoration plans.

Construction history laid bare

‘What is particularly special about this building, in addition to its medieval roots, is that it is possible to read its entire construction/renovation history from 1300 to today’, explains René Bosscher, building surveyor for the University Services Department and specialist for the UG’s built heritage. For this reason, the restoration project was preceded by extensive building history research , conducted by Frank van der Waard. The niched façade (part of the Romanesque architectural style) in particular has great historical value. There are only a few niched façades to be found in the Groningen city centre, and most are only partly preserved. The niches on the Faculty building are virtually intact. ‘We mainly know these niched façades from Romanesque/Gothic church architecture. It’s almost unique for a domestic dwelling to have them’, according to Bosscher. Other important historical elements are the medieval spurs and trussed roof: ‘The current roof construction is mainly 16th century, but some spurs from the original roof from 1300 have been preserved. That is not only unique for Groningen, but in the entire Netherlands, where you only seldom find roof constructions or parts of roofs that are so old.’ As well as these elements, the floor and the staircase (both 17th century) are of great historical value.

‘It is very special that the building has been standing for over 700 years’, says Bosscher. ‘It has seen the city of Groningen grow into what it is today. From looting to flooding, from wars to prestigious citizens, this building has survived it all.’ And now the University of Groningen is adding a new page to the history of this extraordinary building.

Medieval feel to be preserved

The attic is resonant with the feel of a medieval space. This feel will be emphatically preserved and served as the starting point for the architect’s design. The historical elements will be kept and restored with all possible care. After the restoration, the staff members will be working in a room with a medieval feel, which is appropriate for the Faculty of Philosophy.

‘Incidentally, the attic is not the only part of the building with special historical elements. If you give your eyes the chance to roam, you can’t miss them’, continues Bosscher.

Raised floor with technological improvements

There are two storeys under the roof of the building, the attic itself and a loft. Both storeys will be made more easily accessible while preserving the original staircase. Long beams on the monumental floor support the bearing structure. A floating floor (a sort of stage) will be placed on top of these beams to equalize its slope. This stage will also be used to hide the electric and data cables, the ventilation and heating systems. The result will be pleasant work stations for 14 PhD students in the attic and loft. In order to improve the interior climate, roof insulation will be installed on the inside of the roof.

Scheduled works

These changes will preserve the historical character of the beautiful wooden beams and wooden floor, while at the same time giving the Faculty of Philosophy one of the most unique working areas in the University. The construction work will be performed by Jurriëns and the installation work by Kuijpers. The scaffolding has been placed.

Last modified:09 July 2018 2.32 p.m.
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