A tour of Campus Fryslân

A building for everyone

Campus Fryslân, the RUG’s newest faculty, celebrated the opening of the newly renovated faculty building in the city centre of Leeuwarden two weeks ago. High time for the UKrant to take a look.
By Giulia Fabrizi / Photos by Félipe Silva / Translation by Sarah van Steenderen

The first thing you notice when coming through the sliding doors of the stately old stock exchange building at the Wirdumerdijk in Leeuwarden is that it smells like it was only just built. The old monument, which was used to trade in grain as recent as the Second Worl War, became a symbol of sharing knowledge in September. ‘The property changed from a building where people were doing business to one where the knowledge economy is booming’, says Piet Bouma, says Campus Fryslân managing director Piet Bouma.

The stock exchange’s original function inspired the design of the new faculty building. When you enter, you find a dark stairwell with a cast iron banister leading up to the open auditorium. ‘The banister was made by a local artist who was inspired by original designs from the building’s past.’

Energy neutral

The classical banister leads all the way to the next set of sliding doors which reveal a feat of modern design. All the classrooms, offices, and lecture halls are made up of loose parts. ‘It’s an installation’, Bouma explains. ‘If we need to, we could remove everything.’ In between the wooden panels, white pillars reach from the old stock exchange floor all the way to the metres-high ceiling.

The building is accessible to everyone and everyone can work here

The designers made a conscious choice to create a different atmosphere on the ground floor. ‘This is the industrial section’, Bouma explains. There are openwork ceilings, a pebble floor, and dark walls. The hallway is lined with tables and green couches. ‘This is where the grain used to come in. These were the doors where the carts came in’, he says, pointing to the high windows. ‘We restored them to their original state so people can see what they used to be from the outside as well.’

The brand new building isn’t just an ode to the old stock exchange; it also showcases how things can be done differently. Heat pumps and 362 solar panels mean the building is completely energy neutral. For the offices with their glass walls there’s a ‘soft-flex’ policy in place: anyone can work wherever they want. Everyone has access to every single space. It’s important for people to have a sense of community in the building. ‘Our building is accessible to everyone and everyone can work together here.’


When we run into dean Andrej Zwitter, he confirms this. ‘We had a vision for a faculty that comes together to find solutions to global problems’, he explains. He hopes this will do away with the idea of scientists living in an ivory tower. ‘We can’t contribute anything unless we work together with the community. If we stay up in our ivory towers and remain blind to what is needed, people will stop believing in academia.’ It’s his dream to make a lively community within the university. A family, so to speak.


German Marc Flessa (20) already thinks of Campus Fryslân as family. The second-year student at the University College Fryslân can’t imagine a better place to be. ‘The fact that Leeuwarden is such a small city is even better.’ Flessa loves the intimate nature of the place and how easy it is to talk to people. ‘I didn’t come here because of the city, but I love that it’s so great. The community is close-knit, and the place is less hectic than bigger cities.’

The nature of his studies means he doesn’t even need the city. ‘We’re a lively community. We started with twenty-four people last year and we’re already more than just fellow students. We’re a family. We live together, eat together, party together.’ This feeling of community is not just because of the students; the new building plays a role as well.

It’s easy to talk to lecturers, PhDs, and other students

‘Because it’s relatively small, you keep running into each other’, says Flessa. Not just in class, but also during lunch. ‘It’s really easy to just have a chat with lecturers, PhDs, or other students. Making contact is easy.’

This was a conscious effort by the university. ‘Classes start at a quarter to nine in the morning, and that serves an express purpose’, says Bouma. ‘This means that everyone, both students and staff, have their lunch break from twelve thirty to one in the afternoon.’

Good education

The restaurant is located in the centre of the building, and there are dozens of tables where people can eat together. ‘We often get together there’, says Roma Kloosterman (21). To be fair, she doesn’t meet up with students from other programmes much. But she could if she wanted to. Kloosterman is a master student of sustainable entrepreneurship. Unlike many of her fellow students, she still lives in Groningen.

After finishing her bachelor in international relations and international organisation, she wasn’t sure what to do next. ‘I wanted to do something with sustainability, but not the science-y side, like chemistry or physics. When I saw the programme in Leeuwarden, I was pretty much sold right away. Leeuwarden may not have been my first choice to study, but it’s not that far from Groningen, so it works out.’


Kloosterman’s comments are Bouma and Zwitter’s vision and dreams for the faculty made flesh. ‘Education here is really good. It feels as though, because it’s all so new, they really put a lot of thought into the set-up and how to convey things to their students.’ She gives an example: a course from the first block where she had to set up a company. ‘I wanted to focus on sustainability, but I didn’t quite know what to do. This just made it really tangible, concrete.’

Local collaboration

She will be working on a larger project later in her master. ‘The sustainable entrepreneurship project. We’ll visit a company that will give us a sustainability problem. We’ll then work together to try and solve it.’ This matches the picture that Bouma and Zwitter paint, where the faculty doesn’t just focus on its own knowledge goals but looks for local places to make a connection with.

Zwitter says connecting locally is the first step towards reaching global solutions. ‘We work together with the municipality of Leeuwarden, and the Water Authority. But locally also means the place where you are. So it could also mean Zimbabwe.’ This means the new faculty in Leeuwarden can locally gain experience with problems that take place all over the world. From a sense of community, where people are interconnected.


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