From up in the air, Rolex Learning Center looks like a giant slice of Emmentaler cheese, placed on the banks of Lake Leman. Its design is no doubt a play on the clichés associated with the building’s home country.
This unusual building is the centerpiece of the campus of École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), a renowned Swiss university. EPFL is one of two federal technical universities in Switzerland and is the second largest in the country. The Learning Center was constructed between 2007 and 2009, and officially opened in February 2010.
The building is intended to serve as a campus hub and a central library. Inside, the library holds one of the largest collections of scientific works in Europe, with more than 500,000 printed works and tens of thousands of multimedia records. The building was designed by Japanese architects Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa, partners of the Tokyo-based SANAA studio. It was partially financed by donations from Rolex, Nestle, Novartis, and other Swiss companies. It has very few physical boundaries, instead using artificial geography and changes in height to delineate different zones within the library.