Infoversum: The first 3D full dome theatre in The Netherlands

The Infoversum is unique, not only because of its fluent design and the unusual techniques being used, the exploratory and inviting role it will play in the community also make it special.

Conveniently located near the centre of Groningen, the Infoversum cannot be overlooked. It is a building that makes one curious and that needs to be explored. Never before have so many different fields of expertise, goals and techniques successfully been combined in one design.

Edwin Valentijn, Professor in Astronomical Information Technology at the University of Groningen, was asked to make science more accessible for the general public. He initiated what we now know as the Infoversum. A building that gives science, business and cultural activities alike a home. It is an unique place where sharing information about our surroundings and innovations for a more sustainable environment is stimulated.

Jack van der Palen, Architect at architectural consultancy Archiview, found his inspiration early on by using techniques normally used in the ship-building industry and by searching for appropriate recycled materials. With his thought provoking design he visualised the philosophy behind the Infoversum in a breath taking way. Architect Van der Palen and the Central Industry Group, both located in Groningen, spent a long time investigating different ways to incorporate the specific quality of building materials into innovative 3D concepts for contemporary buildings by using ship-building techniques. What they discovered to be feasible opens up a whole new world of design possibilities.

Innovative architecture
The Infoversum is part of a local project that encourages its participants to explore the potential of a temporary building or even mobile architectural constructions. Even though it is designed as a temporary building, the Infoversum will most likely outlive this project. Using the self-supporting capacity of a building and the unique qualities of the materials used in the design in such a playful way is not yet common in the construction industry. But with the Infoversum Van der Palen and the Central Industry Group prove that innovative ideas about form and function now can become a reality.

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The monocoque method allowed them to construct a design without interruptions of the open atmosphere or its organic shape. The soft lines used to shape the outside of the building can also be revisited inside. Their special attention to the routing through the building, the passageways and the philosophy behind the Infoversum, led to an innovative and exciting end result.

It’s an experience
A visit to the Infoversum is more than just a night on the town. Visitors are guided along on a special journey. A journey through the universe, through the extraordinary architecture of the Infoversum itself and through their own imagination. Every room in the building surprises, challenges and contributes to the overall experience.

The routing through the building follows the organic design and exposes the visitor to the ever changing way the light interacts with its surroundings. After entering through the impressive glass main entrance, visitors find themselves in the Infowave. The Infowave is an interactive area with visually stimulating digital presentations. This pre-show room is located in the dome. The dome of course is the heart of the building, and draws all the attention to itself. In the dome and in the lobby can one still see the special construction techniques being used and the actual shape of the outer layers.

The flexible design therefor leads visitors quite naturally to the dome, where the seats can tilt back to get a good view of the 3D projections. While some visitors enjoy the films on the 20 meters big screen, others may be in awe by the natural light that flows over the dome and constantly sets the lobby in a different light. The outdoor platform, the Inforoof, makes the visitor part of a universal show. While one can also see projections on the outside of the dome, those digital images cannot been seen apart from the dynamics of the building and the skies above Groningen.

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Steel art
The 83 corten steel plates form the outer skin, each a different shape and only welded together on the construction site. The outer skin and the construction of the inside together form a coherent whole, with rafters welded directly onto the outer layer. In time the steel plates will get a beautiful rusty layer, to protect the material underneath from the elements, meanwhile changing the appearance of the building day by day. To make it stand out more, the dome is coated white, which gives it an artistic appearance showcasing the impressive Dutch skies.

In order not to disturb the unique and living design of ‘the eye’ or ‘the UFO’, as people already call the Infoversum, components such as drainage, emergency doors and cables are hidden in the skin itself. The windows for example, are placed behind the creatively placed perforations in the steel plates. These perforations and the light that flows through the skylights, found between the outer skin and the dome who never touch each other, create a wonderful lightshow inside the building.

The Infoversum is not only the first full dome theatre in The Netherlands, it is also an innovative project with a focus on sustainability, leading science, culture and architecture alike into a new era with its special 3D projections and its 3D design. Experience the Infoversum!

Jack van der Palen, architect infoversum
Jack van der Palen founded in 1991 the architectural firm ARCHIVIEW in Groningen. His architecture vision is based on the daily experience of a building translated in themes and associations that gives a sensory and physical experience. Light and space play an important role in his architecture. Architectsgroup Archiview is a networkorganisation that mainly operates in the private sector in Belgium, Germany, Netherlands and Portugal. In addition to the architecture initiates the Office innovative projects and takes part in private-public initiatives with themes as sustainability, green deal, chainbusiness integration, circular economy, biobased economy, C2C and energy neutrality.

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