On-campus living is an important part of undergraduate life for many students, but the specific details of that experience vary greatly among college and university campuses. Residential life facilities and programs are integral to an institution’s culture and ultimately are an expression of campus identity. Ayers Saint Gross believes that since each institution is different, the design of residence life facilities must respond accordingly to define and enhance campus culture.
Eckerd College is a liberal arts college in St. Petersburg, Florida with an enrollment of about 1,800 students. This small enrollment size contributes to an intimate campus community. Eckerd College recognizes that all scales of community, from campus-wide to within each residence hall to individual units that house two students, contribute to a student’s sense of belonging and comfort. One way that the College promotes interaction among all students – first-year, sophomore, junior, and senior – is by providing residential facilities on-campus that house students from each of the four classes. First- and second-year students benefit from contact with more mature students, while juniors and seniors enjoy instructive responsibility as role models for their peers. All students benefit from a democratic housing structure that treats all students as equals. At the same time, the residence halls at Eckerd are a departure from the traditional red brick and white painted trim of many American campuses. Instead, the design reflects the architectural style of southwest Florida and the Gulf Coast, including open air breezeways between the houses.
Gallaudet University is the world leader in liberal education and career development for deaf and hard of hearing students. Gallaudet’s campus, also known as Kendall Green, is a beautiful and vibrant campus full of history. The renovation of Denison House presented the unique opportunity to enhance a historic resource on campus, as well as create interior spaces which uniquely serve the needs of deaf and hard of hearing students. Denison House is sited with Fay and Ballard House to define one edge of Olmstead Green – a significant open space on campus designed by and named for Frederick Law Olmstead. Maintaining the historic features of the House’s exterior, particularly its relationship to Olmstead Green was imperative. Inside, refinements to the organization of public space on the ground floor created opportunities to improve site lines – a vital aspect of communication for deaf and hard of hearing students. The renovation restored historic features of the building, such as woodwork and door hardware, and also incorporated modern amenities that students crave – a kitchen and lounge. Residential units in Denison House are singles and are highly appealing to upperclass students.
The University of Virginia is in the midst of building 1,052 replacement beds on campus housing for first-year students. The University houses most of these students along Alderman Road on the north side of campus. The University takes a tried and true age-appropriate approach to housing. For the most part, first-year students live in double units in traditional halls with community bathrooms outside the unit and a healthy offering of other amenities within the hall. Upperclass students enjoy the greater independence of suites or apartments elsewhere on campus. UVA’s campus is best known for the lawn, rotunda, and pavilions designed by Thomas Jefferson. The new halls leave the spotlight to historic landmarks, but do incorporate features that clearly connect them to their location. For example, they employ a familiar palette of red brick accented with light colored trim, but in a contemporary style. Additionally, sidelights on all building entrances incorporate patterned glass that features abstract images of local plants and trees. With so many beds in this area of campus it’s important to distinguish the interior of each hall so that students experience a sense of place and independence. The selection of unique textures and colors for the finishes and furnishings for each hall was made with the idea that each hall would have its own personality.
These are just three examples of how our work responds to the varied aspects of a campus that make it unique. Each of our projects incorporates design features that marry context to construction.