Lausanne uni slips up on Rolex centre paving

Lausanne uni slips up on Rolex centre paving
Photo: EPFL/Alain Herzog
Less than three years after the Rolex Learning Center opened at Lausanne's Federal Institute of Technology (EPFL), officials have been forced to replace all the building's exterior paving at a cost of 1.5 million francs ($1.6 million).

The audacious 110-million-franc building, designed by the Japanese architect firm SANAA, features undulating concrete walls and Swiss-cheese type holes to accommodate numerous interior courtyards.

Exposed to the elements, the courtyards and connecting walkways were covered with a material consisting of gravel-type pellets and resin designed to wick away moisture.

However, the paving wore quickly from foot traffic in certain areas leaving marked depressions that became a hazard, causing some users to fall down, Le Temps newspaper revealed in a report.

EPFL decided to replace the 12,000 square metres of exterior paving with new paving stones, a process that after several months of work is almost complete, the newspaper said.

The technical university sought advice from a committee of experts to find the source of the fault.

“It’s not at the level of the contracting authority,” Francis-Luc Perret, EPFL’s vice-president of planning and logistics, told Le Temps.

As a result, the school is paying just 150,000 francs linked to extra costs for the new material.

Perret said he feared the comeuppance was a blow for a building that houses a library, study areas, restaurants and cafes, and is the campus emblem.

“But we have shown that we could react quickly,” he told Le Temps.

“From the beginning we knew that we would have to adapt to the nature of the building and that its use would pose certain problems.”

He was quick, however, to counter a rumour making the rounds on campus, that the new edifice, with its 8,000 tonnes of concrete and metal, was sinking into the ground.

The foundations of the structure are designed to settle 17 centimetres but have so far only fallen 11 centimetres, he said.

Other reported snafus with the building include difficulties regulating the temperature in the summer.

Windows cannot be opened manually because they are controlled by a computer program and users have complained of cold currents of air.

EPFL claims that operating costs of the Learning Centre are in line with other buildings — about one million francs a year.

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