3XN architects design new Innovation Ecotope


Above: CGI of new Ecotope campus for EPFL in Lausanne (by 3XN)


The Innovation Ecotope is part of the strategic masterplan of 250,000m2, geared towards crafting a social, sustainable, and active site for technology, industry, and innovation linked to the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne.

The EPFL Innovation Park (EIP) has selected 3XN and IB to design and build Ecotope, expanding the university’s existing Science Park and Innovation Square to a new site west of the main EPFL campus. Located to the west of the university’s main campus, the Ecotope will be a vibrant and innovative marketplace for ideas – an evolution of the “innovation park” that will be an “ecosystem in which policymakers, researchers, investors, executives, students, and citizens..”

“Our design takes on the challenge posed by the EPFL Innovation Park to create a place that will have a positive impact on society for years to come,” explains Jan Ammundsen, 3XN Senior Partner-in-Charge. “Ecotope will be a campus that facilitates and generates disruptive innovative solutions by being the interface between EPFL and society at large.”

EPFL, one of the world’s leading public research institutions, has had a dedicated space for innovation – the EPFL Innovation Park (EIP) – since 1991. As the successful EIP turns thirty, the demand for strategic research partnerships have increased, bringing with it an opportunity to rethink what innovation looks like at EPFL.

“It’s not just about adding surface area,” commented Ursula Oesterle, Vice President for Innovation and driver of the Ecotope initiative in a release issued by EPFL. “Today, businesses interested in innovation – whether start-ups or established companies – need a place where they can meet on a daily basis to share ideas. That’s the kind of vibrant, stimulating environment we intend to create with Ecotope.”

The concept for the Ecotope campus not only brings together leaders in business, science, and technology, but also puts a high priority on access to green spaces and biophilic principles. A green pedestrian route linking Ecotope to the EIP and other zones of the EPFL campus brings nature into the heart of the site and extends it outwards toward the main pedestrian axis connecting the two.

“Both the design of the masterplan and its main building are developed around six key principles –biophilia, serendipity, modularity, sustainability, strong identity, and comfort; these are inextricably linked to ensure the flexibility that will serve changing needs in the future,” explains Ammundsen.

The main building, located on the site’s south-eastern corner, will serve as the gateway to and social hub for the Ecotope campus. Labs and offices surround the building’s perimeter, punctuated by twin atria which, like the social spaces scattered across the Ecotope campus, will become hubs for innovation and collaboration.

“After the Covid-19 crisis, Ecotope poses the challenge of rethinking workspaces through a resilient architecture. It is about blurring thresholds between scales, spaces, and uses, and seeking transformative technical solutions to minimize the impact of the building itself,” as Sabrina Bédu, IB project manager, put it. Among them, the choice of a compact and modular architecture or the preference for recycled/recyclable/reusable “RE” materials expresses the ambition to achieve an eco-system with a high degree of sustainability and circularity.”

The first phase of construction for the Ecotope campus is set to begin in 2023. A clean transportation system will also be developed to link Ecotope to the main EPFL campus.

3XN and IB, whose joint proposal was selected out of four invited proposals, have a history of robust collaboration, most recently with the winning design for Tour Tilia, a mixed-use timber tower that will be built on the outskirts of Lausanne. The two offices also worked together to complete the IOC Headquarters in Lausanne, inaugurated in the summer of 2019.

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