Universiteit Leiden

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From nuclear bunker to climate ceiling

With the opening of Wijnhaven, Leiden University now has three locations in The Hague. Photographer Nicole Romijn recorded the construction process of the former ministry building from start to finish. The result can be viewed at the photo exhibition on the Wijnhaven Building in the Old University Library - a little bit of The Hague in Leiden.

The photo exhibition in the Oude UB (Rapenburg 70) will be open on 28 March at 16.30 hrs until 20 April. Entrance is free. 


Together with curator Yvette Laduk, Romijn has selected 67 photos that give a good impression of the construction process. It started with the demolition of the former ministry building. The building was stripped to the front wall, leaving the wind literally whistling through. During the demolition, asbestos was discovered in the floors, which was a setback for the owner of the building. Leiden University itself is not the owner; we rent the ground floor and the first four floors.  

View of the demolition. The sacks of rubbish contain asbestos.

Wijnhaven in figures

Wijnhaven covers almost 14,000 square metres of teaching and research facilities, and offers more than 630 study places, 280 quiet work places, 140 study places with a computer, a library, an information desk, a central place for study associations and  working areas for 250 staff members.  There are five (large and medium-sized) lecture halls and 21 smaller classrooms with moveable walls.
The student pavilion is in the hall, specifically in a central location to underline the importance of the study associations.  

The rear of the building, seen from Schedeldoekshaven.

Traces of the Cold War

The Ministries of Justice and the Interior and Kingdom Relations were previously housed in the complex. During the Cold War, the government had a nuclear bunker built under the building. The bunker is still there, under what is currently the bicycle park. Romijn: â€˜The bunker is really unusual. It's difficult to reach, but  once you're there, you can hardly believe your eyes. There's a cupboard full of keys, matrasses packaged in plastic, and much more.' The nuclear bunker is not accessible and will be preserved in its current state. 


The emergency exit from the bunker is not without its dangers: the trapdoor above the stairs brings you out in the middle of the tram lane.

Climate ceiling

Another surprising fact about Wijnhaven: water is pumped around the ceiling. The building has what's known as a climate ceiling. It works similarly to under-floor heating, only above your head. The system uses a central energy source. In winter hot water is pumped through the system, and in summer, cold water. There are no radiators in the building. 

The photo exhibition can be viewed from 28 March to 20 April in the Oude UB, Rapenburg 70. Entry is free.

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