Ayers Saint Gross at SEAHO 2019

February 25, 2019
Share

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

Food for Thought: Dining Hall Typologies and Design Drivers

February 15, 2019
Share

Today’s students and administrators are increasingly conscientious about nutrition, wellness, and sustainability. Campus dining programs are expected to cater to an ever more sophisticated and health-conscious palette. They must deliver diverse and nutritious cuisines in a dynamic and sensory place. Students want to know where their food comes from and how it is made; food allergies and specialized diets require sensitivity in food handling, storage, preparation to prevent cross-contamination. Likewise, administrators recognize the benefits to classroom performance and overall satisfaction that this holistic view of dining options brings.

To meet today’s expectations, many colleges and universities are stepping up their food service capabilities through the construction of facilities that not only raise the competitive bar for campus dining but also reimagine how spatial design can support learning paradigms of group study and socialization.

Good design celebrates and supports these objectives. There are many spatial models that can address the experiential and functional elements that drive a campus dining project. We have seen these trends evolve over time, from cafeteria-style models to spaces that promote the level of quality today’s students demand. Most dining halls can be grouped into one of the three following typologies:

Corralled

• Corralled. A corralled dining model describes what most remember as a cafeteria or a food court. Food is stored and prepared in bulk quantities in large back-of-house kitchens, servers present options to diners along a tray line, and seating is separate from the main servery. These facilities are designed to serve the singular essential functions of food service, three times per day, with the greatest efficiency.

A popular typology from the 1950s through the late 1990s, some larger facilities of this type present a vast sea of tables that lack a sense of character, scale and intimacy. We are often confronted with this when asked to evaluate possible futures for existing facilities. This typology, however, remains a great option for smaller dining areas where there is still a high level of intimacy and the efficiency benefits can have the greatest impact. In these cases, aesthetic improvements and modernizations are best to appeal to today’s students.

Fully Dispersed

• Fully Dispersed. In the mid 2000s, concern about the student experience came to the forefront of discussion among university decision-makers. Design thinking shifted away from corralled models to just the opposite: a fully dispersed model that exploded the back of house kitchen. In this dining typology, multiple food “platforms,” each containing their own kitchens and storage needs, are dispersed throughout a larger space, interspersed with seating areas.

The experience is one of themed “micro-restaurants” where the action of made-to-order cooking is presented to the customer. This layout results in a greater selection of customized food options and a seating experience that introduces a sense of variety and intimacy. It also establishes a clear connection between students and employees and provides a clear sense of how food is made.

Though this model has the benefit of enhancing the student experience, universities and food service operators realized that the lack of a shared, centralized prep kitchen compromised operational efficiency and increased operational costs.

Hybrid

• Hybrid. More recent food service models combine the operational benefits of a corralled model’s back-of-house kitchen with the experiential benefits of dispersed micro-restaurants. In some hybrid models, shared storage functions and preparation activities can take place in a back-of-house kitchen or even an offsite commissary. Items prepared in the back-of-house kitchen are delivered to semi-dispersed platforms or micro-restaurants as needed for final preparation and finishing. Some food platform concepts may be located immediately adjacent to the back-of-house kitchen, as in a corralled model. Integrating an advantage of the fully dispersed model and fulfilling modern demands, in more recently designed facilities, the kitchen activity is displayed to customers to promote a sense of connection between the students, employees, and the food being provided.

Whatever the typology, operations and aesthetics must be balanced to create the best possible facility.

Let’s first consider operations: sequences of entry and exit, including the location of the dish drop, are critical to flow and function. Everything from sustainable waste management practices, loading dock design, vertical conveyances, interior adjacencies, product flow, and mechanical systems integration must be carefully considered.

As a firm with both architects and campus planners, we have seen that enrollment projections and proximities to student housing and the academic core are key factors in dining demand. The nuances of a dining program can also affect demand models.

Operating hours also influence design decisions, especially as some institutions move toward extended dining hall hours and unlimited meal plans. A facility that provides food all day long will help mitigate demand at peak times, which in turn alleviates the pressure for more dining space overall. A dining hall that serves 5,000 people over the course of 24 hours can be smaller than a dining hall that serves the same number of people in 12 hours. We recommend performing a demand analysis and intensive program verification that takes these considerations into account to “right-size” a design.

Aesthetic values and ambiance are critical to a dining hall’s appeal as a place for people to share a meal, gather, and study. Notions of peak performance via dining drive the design of facilities in both higher education and private sector markets. Indeed, major corporations identify on-site food service experiences as a critical benefit of employment that promotes performance and well-being. Colleges and universities are following suit.

Many administrators now take a holistic view of student performance, satisfaction, and wellness. Good nutrition leads to better classroom performance and better overall satisfaction. Local sourcing can help keep foods free of chemical fertilizers and pesticides often found in industrially farmed produce and improve the town-gown relationship. To convey that the school values nutrition, sustainability, and belonging, foods and ingredients must be displayed attractively. Specialty cooking platforms and demonstration kitchens that promote a healthy and active lifestyle can also be considered learning experiences that contribute directly to student life.

Dining facilities no longer serve a singular function. They should be envisioned as multi-use dining and learning commons that extend the classroom and strengthen academics while meeting the nutrition expectations of a sophisticated student population. Ayers Saint Gross is committed to designing beautiful, functional spaces that enhance student life and classroom performance. We’re excited to see what we can create for clients, and what new and innovative typologies will emerge as more institutions embrace a holistic view of student experience and dining hall design.

Ayers Saint Gross at the University of Texas at Austin Energy Week

February 1, 2019
Share

If you’re in Austin this coming week, I hope you’ll join me on Tuesday, February 5 for a panel discussion on building energy efficiency.

The Future of Building Energy Efficiency: Smart Building or Building Smart?

Buildings account for 40% of energy consumption in the United States. In the growing age of ‘smart’ technologies and sustainable design, how do these market drivers influence energy usage in commercial buildings? This panel will assess current design and technology-based solutions for their energy saving capabilities in existing and new commercial buildings and project the future of the industry. Discussion will also touch on the following questions: What does ‘smart building’ look like now, and in the future? What are barriers to adoption and challenges to implement tech-based solutions? How will standards and certifications (e.g., AEGB, ASHRAE, LEED, WELL, Living Building) evolve to make way for these changes?

Presenters
Zoltan Nagy, Assistant Professor, Civil, Architectural, and Environmental Engineering, UT Austin (Moderator)
Michael Sweeney, Associate Principal, Arup
Sarah Talkington, Project Manager, Austin Energy – Commercial Green Building
Allison Wilson, Sustainability Director, Ayers Saint Gross

Details
Tuesday, February 5, 2019
10:30 – 11:30 AM
Etter-Harbin Alumni Center
2110 San Jacinto Blvd, Austin, TX 78712

Top Blog Posts of 2018

December 26, 2018
Share

We explored a lot on our blog this year, from floating wetlands to Winston Churchill to equity in design. Here’s a look at our most popular posts of 2018. We look forward to more exploration, discovery, and design in 2019 with the clients, partners, and communities we serve.

  1. National Aquarium Floating Wetland Prototype Wins ASLA Honor Award for Research. This innovative design earned our firm its first ASLA award. The floating wetland was created in collaboration with the National Aquarium and our teammates at Biohabitats, McLaren Engineering Group, and Kovacs, Whitney & Associates as a continuation of Studio Gang’s EcoSlip concept.
  2. A New Model for Floating Wetlands. For a deeper dive (pun intended) on the award-winning floating wetlands, check out this explainer on how the apparatus was designed and how it works.
  3. Renewal of Mid-Century Campus Legacies. As more institutions decide how to handle mid-century buildings, these case studies provide progressive strategies that make investments in current students and future generations.
  4. Legacy and Leadership: Designing the National Churchill Library and Center. Because Winston Churchill was a man of true historic importance, we designed his namesake library at The George Washington University to reflect his august legacy in a new and modern way.
  5. Hack the Block: Notes from the Equity by Design Hackathon. This Equity by Design event brought together designers to tackle how to improve justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion in the profession of architecture and in the communities we serve.
  6. 30 Years of Embracing Change: Reflecting on Jim Wheeler’s Career at Ayers Saint Gross. 2018 was the first time in three decades that Jim Wheeler was not involved in the day-to-day operations of the firm, although he remains our Chairman of the Board. His professional legacy lives on in our commitment to forward-thinking business and design strategies.
  7. Comparing Campuses: Student Housing. We examined campus living in our 20th annual Comparing Campuses poster. (We also have online archives of all the Comparing Campuses posters and our student life portfolio.)
  8. The Little Gray Bath House and the Great Residence Hall: Adaptive Reuse at VCU. The integration of a Neoclassical façade into a modern building illustrates how a perceived design obstacle can be turned into an opportunity.
  9. Green Week 2018: The Carrot Awards. Projects at The George Washington University and Washington College earned this year’s top sustainability honors.
  10. WELL 101: Creating Healthy Places. The WELL building standard poses a people-centric, rather than planet-centric, question: How can a building support better health, happiness, and well-being for its occupants?

Infographic: Student Life Snapshot

December 20, 2018
Share

2018 has been a busy year for our firm: 17 student life buildings designed by Ayers Saint Gross have opened on seven campuses in six different states.

To celebrate, we’ve created an infographic that illustrates everything contained in those 15 residence halls and two student commons buildings.

While these buildings geographically stretch from Maine to Florida, a thoughtful and strategic design philosophy unifies them: spaces that support individual students’ academic and personal growth lead to strong, engaged campus communities.

I extend my sincere thanks and congratulations to everyone—clients, designers, and partners—who made these buildings possible. We’re excited to see them in use, and look forward to designing more buildings that promote student success. If you’re interested in these projects and the rest of our firm’s student life portfolio, I hope you’ll reach out to learn more.

Ayers Saint Gross Wins Three AIA Baltimore Awards

December 12, 2018
Share

Ayers Saint Gross is pleased to announce that three of our recent projects have earned recognition from AIA Baltimore:

The Morgan Business Center, designed in collaboration with Kohn Pedersen Fox, is the home of the Earl G. Graves School of Business and Management. It is situated on a historically significant site that was the location of student protests during the Civil Rights Movement and is the first of three buildings in a new precinct. The jury noted:

This year’s Grand Design Award winner underscores how architecture reinforces the institution’s mission and aspirations, while offering high-quality design that is publicly engaging and of service to the broader community. The design does an admirable job of breaking down what would otherwise be a very large building, while maintaining cohesion with beautifully detailed fenestration and massing. The building and landscape integration is very sophisticated, creating flow between buildings and the outdoors. The composition of the building as a backdrop to the spiraling garden offers a successful publicly engaging space as well as a connection to civil rights history…it is a good example of how to make use of a triangle, opening space in the middle which allows for deeper penetration of light. The green roof, visible from the ground, further integrates the building and plaza landscape, while integrating sustainable design and a wonderful elevated garden place.

The ISB, designed in collaboration with Payto Architects, creates a visible heart of the sciences at the head of Kent State’s Science Mall. It uses standardized modules to create flexibility for open labs, classrooms, and study spaces that overlook the university’s new Student Green. The jury noted:

The project does a good job of being sympathetic to the original brutalist buildings, while bringing them forward into a modern dialogue. It offers wonderful spaces on the interior and a good use of materials as a concept. The design creates a flow through the space and a connection to outside. A consistent use of material creates a seamless transition between old and new. There is restraint with the material palette and a subtle yet transformative symbolic gesture to the university’s blue and yellow colors. The interior environment makes exceptional use of daylighting.

The Sagamore Spirit Distillery combines a sophisticated whiskey production facility with an interactive visitor experience on a five-acre waterfront campus. Its design and materiality reflect two distinct pieces of American history: whiskey making and the prestigious Sagamore Farm. The jury noted:

The project transformed a brownfield industrial site into a cultural destination and brings the Sagamore brand to life…The combination of poetry and purposeful space-planning generates a village environment conducive to learning, connecting, and playing, in addition to the functional necessities of whiskey processing.

The aesthetic and programmatic diversity of these projects reflects the interdisciplinary nature of our firm. Great clients inspire great work, and we are honored that AIA Baltimore recognized our efforts on behalf of two great universities and an innovative company.

Ayers Saint Gross Earns #38 Ranking on the 2018 Architect 50 List

November 7, 2018
Share

We are so thrilled that ARCHITECT Magazine ranked Ayers Saint Gross as number 38 on its annual list of the top 50 architecture firms in the country. This prestigious industry ranking is not just about being the largest firm; instead it rigorously evaluates the metrics of a firm’s overall business, sustainability, and design portfolios. The business evaluation includes finances, HR benefits, diversity, and pro bono work. Sustainability measures the firm’s internal and external commitments to ecologically responsible building. A trio of judges review a selection of key projects in the design category.

The complexity and thoroughness of the ARCHITECT Magazine process speak to how the industry can and should approach the creation of the built environment. As a multidisciplinary, employee-owned design firm with a focus on mission-driven clients, we believe we have an obligation to leave places better than we found them.

We can make places better financially by building vibrant, successful spaces and creating a lasting, sustainable business where expertise develops, careers grow, and new leaders arise. Responsible green building has a net-positive effect on our clients’ lives and on the planet. And of course aesthetics count too – designs that are beautiful, functional, and inspiring are at the heart of our work.

As 2018 draws to a close, this honor from ARCHITECT Magazine serves as an inspiration for what our designers and our firm can do next to push our business, our sustainability practices, and our designs to the next horizon. I am excited to see what happens next.

Ayers Saint Gross at SCUP Southern 2018

October 23, 2018
Share

If you’re in Austin next week for SCUP Southern, I hope you’ll join me on Tuesday October 30 for our firm’s session on campus planning. Here are the details.

An Instigator and Path to Crafting a Campus Plan

As institutions continually evolve, students, staff, and faculty must thoughtfully utilize planning resources to strategically guide development towards an exceptional campus experience. This session will illustrate conditions that support the need for a campus master plan, what to incorporate into the effort, and how to adopt a planning continuum on campus. Come learn how to develop and refine skills to critically analyze past and current planning efforts to identify potential process adjustments leading to increased planning impact on your campus. Learning outcomes include:

  1. Identify urban planning and campus design factors that indicate the need for a master plan at your institution.
  2. Determine what elements (examples: new development, mobility and safety, sustainability, wellness, historic preservation, wayfinding, etc.) are most critical to your master planning efforts.
  3. Craft an outline that identifies the “who” and “what” necessary for a successful master planning process.
  4. Define a planning continuum that uses the campus master plan going forward for enduring improvement on your campus.

Presenters
David C. Brown, Planner, Texas A&M University-College Station
Dana Craig Dixon, Senior Associate, Ayers Saint Gross
Corey Rothermel, Associate, Ayers Saint Gross

Details
Tuesday October 30, 2018
9:45 AM – 10:45 AM

Credits
AIA LU 1.0 unit (SCUPS18C21)
AICP CM 1.0 unit

Ayers Saint Gross at ASLA 2018

October 15, 2018
Share

If you’re in Philadelphia this week, please make time to catch one of the terrific sessions that Ayers Saint Gross will be leading at the 2018 ASLA Annual Meeting and Expo. Here are the details:

Academia in Arcadia: Design, Sustainable Stewardship, and Pedagogy on Swarthmore’s Campus

As Swarthmore’s Scott Arboretum prepares to celebrate its 90th anniversary as an arboretum and home to one of the most prestigious liberal arts colleges, this field session explores the intersection of campus planning, sustainable stewardship, design, pedagogy, and community outreach in the art and science of a public garden. Learning objectives include:

  • Gaining insight into how a large scale and diverse landscape is planned for the 21st century mission of the college with a focus on horticulture, education, sustainability, and public outreach.
  • Learning how specific landscape values and planning strategies have been translated into an environmental framework for stormwater management.
  • Seeing how experimental horticultural and soil strategies are being employed to diversify the landscape while reducing long-term maintenance demands.
  • Discussing how these strategies inform the collaboration among the design professions, particularly landscape architects, engineers, horticulturists, and educators.

Presenters
Richard A. Newton, Partner, Olin
Amelle Schultz, Associate Principal, Ayers Saint Gross
Steve Benz, Founder/Consultant, SITEGreen Solutions
Dennis McGlade, Partner, Olin
Claire Sawyers, Director, The Scott Arboretum
Jeff Jabco, Director of Grounds, Swarthmore College
Rodney Robinson, Founder, Robinson Anderson Summers
Kristen Loughry, Senior Landscape Architect, Olin

Details
Friday, October 19, 2018
7:45 AM – 4:35 PM
Meeting Location: N. 13th Street and Arch Street
Philadelphia, PA 19107
Note: Preregistration required.

Credits
3.25 PDH, LA CES/HSW, FL, NY/HSW


Where Land Meets Water: Rethinking the Shoreline in Urban Waterfronts

In many cities, the threshold between land and sea is abrupt and impenetrable. Baltimore’s Inner Harbor is no exception. A new paradigm is emerging, motivated by aquatic conservation and social justice. This session looks at design interventions that are transforming human and ecological interactions across the divide. Learning objectives include:

  • Identifying key design drivers and factors that contribute to ecological health in sensitive shoreline environments.
  • Sharing strategies designers can use to collaborate with scientists and other non-designers to frame experiments and develop prototypes that test ideas and collect data.
  • Prototyping tests ideas for fine-tuning before scaling up and learning how the design process can be structured to allow adaptation of design concepts in response to discovery.
  • Learning how ecological visioning plays a constructive role in unlocking the transformative potential of existing sites.

Details
Friday, October 19, 2018
10:30 AM – 12:00 PM
Location 120
Pennsylvania Convention Center
1101 Arch Street
Philadelphia, PA 19107

Presenters
Jonathan Ceci, former Principal, Ayers Saint Gross
Jacqueline Bershad, Vice President of Planning and Design, National Aquarium
Christopher Streb, Bioworks Practice Leader, Biohabitats

Credits
1.5 PDH, LA CES/HSW, AIA/HSW, AICP, FL, NY/HSW


Designing a Laboratory Landscape on the Chester River

By embracing budget constraints and harnessing the rich landscape history of our site, we are proposing a light but ambitious landscape for Washington College’s Semans-Griswold Environmental Hall, a Living Building Challenge project. We will share the lessons of how you can make the most when your client insists that you do the least. Included in our project are nursery gardens, stormwater management plantings, a novel ecology created by a river flow-through outfall stream, and custom-designed meadows all along the Chester River on two remediated brownfield sites. 

Details
Sunday, October 21, 2018
10:00 AM – 10:45 AM
PPN Live stage, Expo Hall
Pennsylvania Convention Center
1101 Arch Street
Philadelphia, PA 19107

Presenter

Margaret Baldwin, Landscape Designer, Ayers Saint Gross

Renewal of Mid-Century Campus Legacies

October 11, 2018
Share

The post-WWII era brought a surge of construction to college campuses, fueled by the GI Bill, the Space Race, increased science research funding, and the demographic tsunami of the Baby Boomers. The building designs from that era demonstrate a range of characteristics: the textured surfaces of mid-century modern, the simplified structure of minimalism, or the stronger, more formalist voice of Brutalism. Often characterized by raw concrete construction of simple blockish forms, the buildings allowed institutions to project a forward-thinking sensibility and build significant structures economically.

The result was a sizeable and often challenging generation of campus development. Some buildings and landscapes from this era have stood the test of time in both beauty and functionality, but many have not.

Additionally, buildings and their infrastructure systems have a cycle of obsolescence, no matter the era of initial construction. They wear out over time, usually requiring reinvestment after about 30 years and certainly around 50. Even when the physical structure is sound, the activities that a building supports will change, as do safety regulations, programmatic best practices, and technological and design innovations.

Today, many universities are at a crossroads regarding what to do with these buildings. Is the wisest choice to reinvest in existing buildings and their infrastructure systems? Are there effective ways to renew or repurpose these structures? Or is the best choice to rebuild?

The first step in answering these questions is to start with an objective assessment of the building: architecture, engineering, cost, land value, campus planning, strategic initiatives, and historic preservation. Information about the building’s existing conditions can be developed in layers, increasing in detail as likely scenarios come into focus. Some key factors to consider are the integrity of the facility’s structural systems, and if its floor-to-floor heights allow for modern mechanical and electric infrastructure. (For a deeper dive on this part of the process, I recommend this recent article from The Chronicle of Higher Education, “How to Make Old Campus Spaces Feel New Again.”)

Once the assessment is complete, options develop: what is possible, what will result in a great building, what implementation strategy works, and how it will be financed.

While no two situations are alike, we do see consistent themes (and solutions) on how to approach challenging decisions about the use of these existing buildings in our practice. As more institutions face decisions about how to handle mid-century buildings, the following case studies provide progressive and forward-leaning strategies that make investments in current students and in future generations.
 


1. Reinventing an icon.

The Hayden Library at Arizona State University was built in 1966. While the geometric lines of its façade give the exterior an enduring aesthetic appeal, its interiors no longer support the needs of a modern library. To transform it from a place primarily for books into a place for people, the interiors needed rethinking and the way the building met the ground externally needed to change.

Previously, a depressed concrete moat surrounded the building tower, separating it from campus and putting a key entrance below grade. Partially filling the moat makes the library more accessible to pedestrians and more connected to its surroundings via a cohesive plaza and accessible entries. The substitution of glazing for granite paneling at grade creates transparency, adding daylight and visibility.

To support a modern, student-focused interior environment, 75% of the books were relocated to other Arizona State facilities. (They are still available to users via special order.) In addition to the reduced number of volumes, the relocation of mechanical systems from inside the library itself to a new annex freed up nearly 6,000 net square feet of space for new programming.

When the renovations are complete in 2020, the library will house a business incubator space, a green-screen studio, innovation labs, and large and small study spaces. The library will be an inclusive interactive hub where people from different disciplines can come together for team-based learning and innovation. From a distance, the changes at Hayden may be less apparent than some other renovations, but the building has been reinvented in a way that better serves the campus.


 

2. Incremental steps in pursuit of a bold vision.

Kent State University has a trio of 1960s Brutalist buildings – Cunningham Hall, Smith Hall, and Williams Hall – on its Science Mall which respectively housed the Biology, Physics, and Chemistry departments. All three structures underwent interventions of varying degrees to address deferred maintenance, improve accessibility, and reflect the school’s commitment to supporting new pedagogies and curricula.

Our carefully phased occupied renovations unite the three buildings as a cohesive precinct that fosters interdisciplinary interaction, in sharp contrast to the previous siloed departments. The renovations added internal and external porosity to the existing Brutalist structures, increasing natural light and users’ ability to see into classrooms and gathering spaces. Interior material choices, including railings, floor materials, signature pops of color, and hickory paneling, create a cohesive and warm environment throughout the three buildings. The consistent use of these materials throughout the renovations creates a seamless transition between old and new within each building and defines the precinct as a science hub.

In addition to reducing the disruption to class and research schedules, the phased occupied construction had a financial benefit. It allowed Kent State to spread the cost of a transformative project over multiple capital investment cycles. The phased occupied construction also caused minimal disruption of classes and prevented any delay in student progression through any required sequential programs.

The integration of old and new at the Integrated Science Building creates a unified platform for chemistry and life sciences research.

The final phase of this renovation was the construction of a new Integrated Science Building. This three-story facility connects to the existing Williams Hall structure, creating an integrated platform for chemistry and life sciences research that also draws non-science majors into an area where they will be exposed to STEM disciplines. The combination of several small, high-impact interventions, and a large addition for new programs transforms the future of the sciences at Kent State, with minimal impact to the student experience.


3. Transforming a gateway façade.

At Washington University in St. Louis, the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences had vacated Bryan Hall, creating a practical opportunity to redesign the building’s interior for interdisciplinary chemistry research. It also presented a chance to boldly transform the façade of the building, turning what was a “back door” to campus into an important gateway. It was also a chance to integrate a contemporary structure into the campus’ Collegiate Gothic vernacular.

Inside the building, the central corridor was relocated to the north side of each floor to allow a large flexible layout within the labs and sweeping views from the common spaces. A communal stair connects lab levels, as does a two-level programmed bridge spanning a major campus entry.

Terra cotta fins on a glassy new façade transform Bryan Hall into a feature gateway.

On the exterior, a glass wall replaced the north façade’s existing heaviness to allow daylight into adjacent write-up spaces and common areas and to capitalize on views of the wooded neighborhood beyond. A terracotta fin screen layered over the glass creates a new façade expression. Sustainable features include passive sun-shading and zoned mechanical systems. Although the building is equipment-rich and energy-demanding, Bryan Hall is on track for LEED Gold certification.


4. Scrap the precast, save the frame.

The Zachry Engineering Center, built in 1972, was a design of its time: a concrete box with relatively few windows, sited on a then-remote edge of the Texas A&M University campus. The College of Engineering had a new vision for program delivery and wanted a dramatically changed building to support that vision. In response, the 330,000 gross square feet Zachry Center was gutted down to its (very solid) structural frame, while its mechanical, electric, and plumbing systems were all removed and replaced.

It also received a 200,000 gross square feet addition, which was possible due to the way the building was first built. The original four-story structure was designed to support two additional floors. Contemporary building codes frequently prevent the realization of such intended additions, but in this case the addition of one floor was both possible and desirable. Through extensive site design and building massing, our design team created a more complex and site-responsive building form. Besides the need to add more space, the facility lacked height relative to its neighbors. Post intervention, what is now called the Zachry Education Engineering Complex (EEC) is five stories high and more appropriately scaled to its surroundings.

To further connect the EEC to its neighbors, the design adds three new entries aligned with adjacent buildings, creating an “engineering walk” that ties back to campus and sets up sites for potential new construction. The addition extends out to address a nearby street line, establishing a more consistent campus edge. The exterior now consists of local stone, glass, and metal panels that fit much better into the context of campus than the now-gone precast.

The idea of transparency is apparent in the building’s interior organization as well. The activity of learning and discovery is visible and engaged. The spaces in this new complex include active/collaborative classrooms that allow instructors and teaching teams to reconfigure the space to best fit teaching needs and course design, and common labs with interdisciplinary themes.

The addition of a floor to Zachry Engineering Education Center made the project more appropriately scaled to its surroundings.

Now at more than 500,000 gross square feet, the EEC is the third-largest building on the Texas A&M campus (trailing only the football stadium and the library). Its transformation is a testimony to how structurally solid many Brutalist buildings still are, and how renovations can be a better solution – programmatically, financially, ecologically, and aesthetically – than demolition.


While the heyday of mid-century campus architecture has come and gone, thoughtful and creative interventions can bring these structures into a new age. As higher education seeks ways to philosophically and physically reinvent itself in the 21st century, the renovation and renewal of such buildings serve as both powerful symbols and practical investments.


These designs were completed in partnership with Payto Architects (Kent State University), Trivers (Washington University in St. Louis), and TreanorHL (Texas A&M University).

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

October 1, 2018
Share

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.

Ayers Saint Gross at TCUF 2018

September 13, 2018
Share

If you’re in San Antonio next week, I hope you’ll join the Ayers Saint Gross team at one of our three TCUF sessions, or visit our display in the Architectural Showcase. Here’s where we’ll be.

A New Era of Sustainability Planning: From Vision to Implementation
Texas A&M’s 2018 Sustainability Master Plan integrates social equity objectives with environmental and economic efforts while balancing the need for long-term vision with action and accountability. Through nine themes that address the physical environment, social sustainability, waste management, and institutional efforts, sustainability initiatives at Texas A&M have been transformed from an environment-heavy focus to an approach that places equal emphasis on all three elements of sustainability’s triple bottom line.

Concurrent to developing the university’s Sustainability Master Plan, Texas A&M’s Department of Residence Life sought ways to evaluate its contribution to institution-wide sustainability efforts and prioritize future endeavors. The Residence Life Sustainability Master Plan seeks to advance the department’s capacity to operate sustainable facilities, support sustainable life skills education, and leverage competitive advantage in the local student housing market.

Presenters
Chareny Rydl, Director of Residence Life, Texas A&M University
Lara Hendrickson, Sustainability Operations Coordinator, Texas A&M University
Allison Wilson, Sustainability Director, Ayers Saint Gross

Details
Friday September 21, 2018
Republic C (4th Floor)
1:00PM – 2:00PM


An Instigator and Path to Crafting a Campus Plan
Campus master plans, both aspirational in vision and realistic in implementation, seek to guide the long-term physical development of institutions in alignment with their vision, mission and goals. The session will evaluate and illustrate conditions supporting the need for a campus master plan, what to incorporate into the effort and how to adopt a continuum of planning on campus.

Texas A&M University’s 2017 Campus Master Plan will serve as a case study, guiding attendees through the process of determining when a plan is needed, where to focus your efforts, what elements might be included, who to engage in the process, how the proposed transformations have impacted the campus experience and why to outline future supporting planning efforts for continuous improvement.

Attendees will develop and refine skills to critically analyze past and current planning efforts to identify potential process adjustments leading to increased planning impacts on your campus.

Presenters
Lilia Y. Gonzales, University Architect, Texas A&M University
Dana Dixon, Senior Associate, Ayers Saint Gross
Corey Rothermel, Associate, Ayers Saint Gross

Details
Friday September 21, 2018
2:10PM – 3:10 PM
Republic B (4th Floor)


Enterprise Planning: A Case for Moving Beyond a Traditional Master Plan
Differing from a traditional master plan which focuses solely on the built environment, enterprise planning touches all areas of an institution to guide strategic direction. The outcome is a shared vision which becomes the framework for policies, programs, and physical space.

Through a highly collaborative process involving hundreds of Tarrant County College stakeholders, a series of charrettes acted as the primary tool for discovery, analysis, and dialogue. The activities sought to create a collective understanding of key concepts, establish big-picture priorities, and discuss stakeholder ideas for the near term and long term. These workshops created a venue to discover and analyze challenges, craft potential solutions, and define the future, all in tandem.

The outcome was the establishment of three overarching goals and a set of eight principles that together serve as the pillars of the college’s vision and guide all areas of the institution.

Presenters
Nina Petty, Vice Chancellor for Real Estate & Facilities, Tarrant County College
Doug Lowe, President, Facility Programming and Consulting
Jack Black, Principal, Ayers Saint Gross
Corey Rothermel, Associate, Ayers Saint Gross

Details
Saturday September 22, 2018
11:15 AM – 12:15PM
Crockett C/D