Ayers Saint Gross at the 2020 ACUHO-I Virtual Summit

June 22, 2020
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Each year, we look forward to the ACUHO-I conference as an opportunity to see old friends, make new ones, and learn all we can about the latest in student housing and residence life. This year the conference experience is different, but the goals remain the same. We look forward to connecting digitally as the conference continues as a virtual summit.

ACUHO-I 2020 Educational Sessions

The Big Idea: Transforming the Student Experience Through Influential Leadership
Tuesday, June 23 | Session 3
Live Session, 4:00-4:45 pm

This session will examine how two universities partnered with industry leaders and parlayed their housing mission into vibrant communities for the next generation of learners. Learn more about an ambitious gateway campus precinct as well as a forward-looking high-rise community tailored to the needs of first-year students.

Presenters
Kathy Hobgood, Clemson University
Megan Becker, Virginia Commonwealth University
Eric Moss, Ayers Saint Gross
Cooper Melton, Ayers Saint Gross

Master Planning for Student Success
Pre-recorded Session

At North Carolina State University, the Student Housing Master Plan has created a roadmap to maximize the impact of future investments on student success. Faced with the challenges of limited resources, a rapidly evolving off campus housing market, and some large, aging housing facilities, the planning team leveraged market research and financial modeling, housing data from peer institutions, and creative design to create a plan that focuses on recruitment, retention, and student success.

Presenters
Donna McGalliard, North Carolina State University
Katie Karp, Brailsford & Dunlavey
Dennis Lynch, Ayers Saint Gross

2020 Student Housing Book

The conference also typically marks the release of our annual housing data book. We are pleased to continue the tradition digitally and share this year’s edition “Did You Plan for This?” No one could have planned for the crises we’re facing in 2020. Focused on housing master plans, this year’s book illustrates the common drivers revealed by data-driven planning efforts and how they are key to effective implementation and providing a flexible framework to respond to changing circumstances.

Read the book here.

Alfond Commons in the News

December 12, 2019
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In the fall of 2018, Colby College opened the Alfond Main Street Commons, realizing Colby’s vision of housing 200 students and faculty-in-residence in the heart of downtown Waterville, Maine. The past year has proven this initiative to be a resounding success. Already the project has been recognized for multiple awards, including:

It is always fulfilling to see our projects advance the student experience within the campus community. Alfond Commons is especially gratifying because of its significant impact on both Colby and the Waterville community at large, which has been highlighted in several articles and publications.

In addition to an interview with Ayers Saint Gross president Luanne Greene, The Chronicle of Higher Education’s special publication, “The Campus as City” featured Alfond Commons and produced this excellent video.

Talking Stick, the publication from the Association of College and University Housing Officers-International (ACUHO-I) wrote about both Alfond Commons’ place in Waterville and the active learning community that has been created there.

Finally, we have been proud to share the success of Alfond Commons at conferences around the country.

Recently, Eric Zahn presented the project with Brian Clark, Vice President of Planning for Colby College, at the ACUHO-I Academic Initiatives Conference. Their talk highlighted the unique synergy of civic, academic, and student life spaces within the building, and the aspects of its design that render it both forward-looking and expressive of its place. Eric also spoke about how our student housing expertise and design build teaming arrangement with Landry/French Construction helped get the project designed and delivered on an aggressive schedule. While of great value to the owner, more significantly, this hall has elevated the Colby student experience and established a compelling template for a community-driven co-curricular living community. The fact that it is already the most popular of Colby’s on-campus housing offerings is a testament to its success

Sustainable Design Coordinator Kyle Ritchie presented at the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education conference, on the principles of permaculture design, a platform that applies the patterns of natural ecosystems to the design of the built environment. Alfond Commons (along with Semans-Griswold Environmental Hall and the Hayden Library Reinvention) was presented as a case study for putting these principles into practice.

All in all, this news adds up to a remarkable year. We can’t wait to see what the future holds.

Ayers Saint Gross at ACUHO-I 2019

June 20, 2019
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We’re looking forward the ACUHO-I 2019 Conference and Expo in Toronto (June 22-25), and hope you’ll visit Ayers Saint Gross at booth 621. This is always an exciting time of year, as we connect with friends old and new, share our experience, and learn all the latest in student housing. We hope to see you there.

Be sure to pick up this year’s edition of our annual student housing book, Choose Your Student Experience.  It’s an interactive showcase of the creative ways we help colleges and universities craft a holistic student life experience through impactful, vibrant facilities. 

And join us for our educational session with Virginia Commonwealth University on the importance of designing for both private and communal spaces in student housing.

From Facility to Facilitator: Community, Privacy, and Inclusivity in Shared Spaces

For many first-year students, the residence hall is their first home outside of the family home. The most successful student housing facilities build a strong community among residents, while providing opportunities for the individual to have privacy when needed. Outside-the-unit spaces like lounges and laundry rooms are critical to community-building, while student units, even shared doubles, can be configured to provide moments of seclusion. Bathrooms are unique in that they bridge these two goals. Some daily activities demand privacy, while others confer an opportunity to strengthen the social connections formed through communal living. This program reviews case studies at Virginia Commonwealth University and other institutions to illustrate how thoughtfully designed outside-the-unit spaces and bathroom facilities in student housing can accommodate the individual’s need for privacy while building a sense of community and a culture of inclusion.

Presenters

Gavin Roark, Director of Residential Life & Housing,
Virginia Commonwealth University
Megan Becker, Ed.D., Associate Director of Residential Life,
Virginia Commonwealth University
Eric Moss, Principal, Ayers Saint Gross
Cooper Melton, Associate Principal, Ayers Saint Gross

Details

ACUHO-I 2019
Sunday, June 23, 2019
2:35 – 3:25 PM
Education Session 3
Room 712

Ayers Saint Gross at SEAHO 2019

February 25, 2019
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If you’re attending SEAHO 2019 in Jacksonville, Florida this week I hope you’ll visit Ayers Saint Gross at booth 319 and join us for our educational session on the importance of designing for both private and communal spaces in student housing.

From Facility to Facilitator: Community, Privacy, and Inclusivity in Shared Spaces
For many first-year students, the residence hall is their first home outside of the family home. The most successful student housing facilities build a strong community among residents, while providing opportunities for the individual to have privacy when needed. Outside-the-unit spaces like lounges and laundry rooms are critical to community-building, while student units, even shared doubles, can be configured to provide moments of seclusion. Bathrooms are unique in that they bridge these two goals. Some daily activities demand privacy, while others confer an opportunity to strengthen the social connections formed through communal living. This program will review case studies at Virginia Commonwealth University and other institutions to illustrate how thoughtfully designed outside-the-unit spaces and bathroom facilities in student housing can accommodate the individual’s need for privacy while building a sense of community and a culture of inclusion.

Presenters
Gavin Roark, Director of Residential Life & Housing,
Virginia Commonwealth University
Megan Becker, Ed.D., Associate Director of Residential Life, Virginia Commonwealth University
Eric Moss, Principal, Ayers Saint Gross
Cooper Melton, Associate Principal, Ayers Saint Gross

Details
SEAHO 2019
Thursday, February 28, 2019
10:15 – 11:15 AM
Session 3
City Terrace Room 8

The Little Gray Bath House and the Great Residence Hall: Adaptive Reuse at VCU

October 1, 2018
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Gladding Residence Center (GRC) at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) is one of many Ayers Saint Gross student life projects slated to open in fall 2018. The 12-story, 1518-bed building incorporates a small Neoclassical façade into its base. This unusual feature contains a great story of how a perceived design obstacle can be turned into an opportunity.

Some background: the façade is the last remnant of the historic Branch Public Baths. At the turn of the 20th century, many homes in Richmond lacked indoor plumbing. Residents used a backyard privy as a toilet, and bathed in wash basins or in nearby waterways.

In an effort to improve public health, local philanthropist John Patterson Branch built several public bathhouses as a gift to the city. The one on the VCU site was Branch Public Bath No. 2, erected in 1913 on a small midblock parcel facing Monroe Park.

Photo credit: Cook Collection, The Valentine

By the 1920s, 80,000 people per year were using the Branch Public Baths. A bath cost 5¢ and included a clean towel, a bar of soap, and a 20-minute time limit. Over time, indoor plumbing gradually became more commonplace, and by 1950 the city had closed the bathhouses. In 1979, VCU redeveloped the entire block as Gladding Residence Center, but preserving a portion of its façade as the entry to the complex. The bathhouse had found a new purpose, but was now uncomfortably shoehorned between two wings of the new complex.

Four decades later, GRC was outgrown and outmoded, and VCU needed to replace it. The university engaged Ayers Saint Gross as Design Architect and Clark Nexsen as Architect of Record, along with American Campus Communities, to create a new student housing complex that meets the evolving needs of a 21st-century student population.

But what to do about the bathhouse? It was awkwardly located at not-quite-midblock. Its Renaissance aesthetic contradicted VCU’s image as a forward-looking, innovative institution. But the residents of the adjacent neighborhood saw the bathhouse as a beloved artifact of the district’s history. Any effort to demolish it would be met with stiff community opposition, and relocation costs were prohibitive. The bathhouse had to stay.

Our team grappled with how to incorporate it into the new GRC. Architectural massing is a push-pull of external and internal forces, and student housing is no exception. The need for exterior space-making and articulation must be balanced with the internal scales of the unit module and the RA community. Adding a randomly-sited, 100-year-old architectural folly into the equation only complicated matters still.

In the end, the solution was subtractive. Our design team made space for the bathhouse by carving out a zone of units on one side of the corridor, in the process producing multiple positive outcomes, namely:

  • It created void space in the massing that gave the bathhouse some necessary architectural breathing room.
  • It allowed us to employ a single-loaded corridor for a portion of the upper floors. Double-loaded corridors are the norm with student housing, as they’re more efficient and promote community-building. But with 140 inhabitants per floor, windowless corridors would have been oppressive at this scale. Now, residents walking from the elevators to their rooms are treated to expansive views out to Monroe Park and the city beyond.
  • The exterior wall at the single-loaded corridor was now liberated from the module of the student room. Suddenly the team was free to incorporate floor-to ceiling glass in a lively composition of curtain wall and gray metal panel that forms a backdrop to the bathhouse’s limestone pilasters and entablature, and a counterpoint to the red brick cladding the student rooms.

The bathhouse, which threatened to be a thorn in the side of the project, became an asset. Its limestone exteriors have been cleaned, and its leaky casement windows were replaced with contextually-designed insulated units. Our graphic design studio even faithfully recreated the long-vanished “BRANCH PUBLIC BATHS” engraved signage that adorned the stone entablature.

The bathhouse structure now houses community space for GRC residents on its first floor, and a media lounge on the second story. The full integration of old and new at GRC serves as a reminder that cities, like campuses, are a collage of eras.

2018 Comparing Campuses: Student Housing

July 10, 2018
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2018 marks the 20th edition of our firm’s Comparing Campuses poster. Since 1998, we have explored hundreds of campus plans from leading institutions around the world. We assemble this collection as a tool for institutional planners because we believe that understanding campus organization and data will lead to the creation of even better spaces in which we live, learn, and teach. We understand the importance of research, and believe that sharing our research contributes to creating better campuses.

Last year, we turned to the past, exploring historic campus master plans and how they helped shape their respective campuses today.

This year, we’re going home – or more precisely, to the on-campus places that students call home.

Housing plays a central role in students’ lives. The residential experience can be a competitive amenity that contributes to a university’s brand. Well-designed spaces and varied typologies should meet the needs of students as they change and grow throughout their college experiences.

Our 2018 poster compares campus-owned housing typology, density, and distribution across 10 institutions. Each map highlights housing facilities color coded by the predominant unit type, overlaid with a series of circles scaled to represent the number of beds in each building. We hope you enjoy exploring how these different institutions have created places that students can call home.

If you won’t be at SCUP, please email us at comparingcampuses@asg-architects.com and we’ll be happy to send you a copy. Additionally, the entire Comparing Campuses collection is available on our website. Visit us there, or at booth 109 at SCUP 2018 to claim your copy. We’ll see you in Nashville, and look forward to discussing the many ways to help students feel at home on campus.