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Ghent University's UFO

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Ghent University’s new Universiteitsforum, affectionately known as the ‘UFO’, is the latest addition to a university campus which has been deliberately maintained and developed within the heart of the city. Opened for the 2009-2010 University year, it includes a stunning new 1000 seat auditorium whose American white oak interior provides outstanding acoustic quality and complements the sober plain glass and concrete of the exterior aspects of the building.
The architect Joris Van Huychem was looking for a single material that could be used throughout the auditorium. American white oak proved to be “the best solution” because of its adaptability, ability to meet all the particular specifications and its slightly greyish tone which fitted well with the building design. The thick auditorium doors are clad in acoustic white oak panelling and American white oak strips have been used throughout the 1500 m2 of tiered flooring. The walls and ceilings are also covered with strips of American white oak in varying length, up to 3 m, creating a graphic and complex effect. Once sawn and planed, the oak strips were pressure treated with a fire retardant, with resistant plaster board and a fire retardant tissue sandwiched between the strips providing compliance with the stringent fire regulations for a public building.
A high standard of acoustics was the key requirement for this 1,000 seater auditorium, so that students in the back row could hear just as well as those in the front. The acoustics engineers recommended that at least 30% of the 1000 m2 of ceiling and wall surface be left exposed to strengthen sound absorption.
As a result, the joiners first prefabricated hundreds of panels with different patterns of oak strips and then fitted them together on site using a computer-aided layout plan to assemble this gigantic jigsaw puzzle.
Deadlines to make sure that the auditorium was ready for the new university term.

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