© BOEi/Van Swaay
Last summer, the WUR Executive Board actually chose the rival plan of the Noordereng Group, which wanted to turn the Aula into a debating centre. That choice led to a deadlock because Wageningen municipality preferred relocating the cinema. Both groups were then given time to revise their plans. BOEi/Van Swaay seized that opportunity with both hands and came up with a completely new plan. It included keeping the Aula intact as much as possible, which dealt with WUR’s biggest gripe about BOEi/Van Swaay’s earlier plan. That meant there was no longer any difference between the two plans regarding the conversion of the Aula for new uses.
Support and operation
According to WUR spokesperson Simon Vink, the cinema plan seems to have more support among Wageningen’s population than the debating centre. It also has better long-term prospects as a financially sound operation. The latter aspect in particular is important for WUR. The principle has always been to retain the Aula, a property of cultural and historical importance to both the university and the city. In addition to a cinema auditorium, BOEi/Van Swaay is also going to use the Aula for other cultural events, such as concerts, debates and stand-up comedy. The current reception area will be a theatre cafe that is open all day to visitors and as somewhere for freelancers to work, for example. In the small chamber there will be a Wageningen (UR)Experience, an audio-visual presentation of ‘everything Wageningen has to offer’. The rest of the cinema will be built underground next to the Aula, with four smaller auditoriums with seating for 40 to 50 people.
There will also be an underground car park. The former library behind the Aula will be converted into 50 studio flats for young professionals such as PhD candidates visiting WUR. New premises adjacent to this building will be built with 28 studio flats for that same target group (so not for students). Hotel De Wereld will be expanded with 20 rooms in an annexe to the current hotel. Before BOEi/Van Swaay can get started, the plan must first go to the municipal council, as the zoning plan has to be altered as well. WUR is selling the Aula and the surrounding buildings because it wants to build its own Dialogue Centre on campus. The construction of that centre has not started yet. It is scheduled for completion in 2021.