Facility Focus: Academic Buildings

1. Honoring the Exterior

The three-story Humanities Building at Rice University in Houston is the first new structure in decades to be built as an integral part of the historic academic quadrangle. It was carefully located to preserve a double row of live oaks lining the adjacent street, as well as two large oaks near the library. Because exterior spaces are important at Rice, the design exploits existing trees, buildings and arcades to create a courtyard, extend axes and pathways, and enhance views. In a short time, the new courtyard has become a setting for student and university celebrations.

The entire design expands upon the unique, Byzantine-Romanesque architectural style of the original campus. The exterior of the Humanities Building has a syncopated checkerboard pattern that makes its own memorable statement. The primary materials include a dramatic mix of brick, limestone, cast stone, glazed tile and red roof tile. The 90-ft.-tall Pitman Tower houses the main stair and continues the Rice tradition of using campaniles to punctuate the skyline and define the axes.

The Humanities Building provides new learning and administrative spaces for the history, philosophy and religious studies programs.

The facility contains seven classrooms, a video-conferencing classroom, conference rooms, the Dean’s Suite, department offices, faculty and graduate student offices, lounges, a main entrance lobby, and a grand staircase. Public spaces have vaulted ceilings, multicolored slate tile floors, wrought iron railings and custom-designed light fixtures. The building integrates technologically advanced teaching facilities and includes sophisticated audio-visual, data and telecommunications systems.

Dedicated in October 2000, the 45,000-sq.-ft., $11-million building was designed by Washington, D.C.-based Allan Greenberg, Architect, LLC.

2. Responding to the Campus Context

Administrators at lake-Sumter Community College in Leesburg, Fla., recently unveiled their 32,000-sq.-ft. Health Sciences Center. Featuring a signature design, the building houses the college’s nursing and health sciences classrooms, labs, faculty/administrative offices and associated support facilities.

Limited only by the dictate of using an exterior brick fa├žade and sloping metal roof already evidenced on campus, the resulting stepped plan for the two-story, white brick structure responds to the transformation of the building from the campus context to the community context along U.S. Highway 441 in Leesburg.

Because the building is viewed at an oblique angle from the highway, the team developed a more sculptural resolution to the southern tip of the structure to present the spatial and physical definition required of a memorable piece of architecture. The design image is stated by three elements: the classroom block, an elevator tower and an auditorium.

The goals were to create an exciting and inviting image along the highway at the eastern entry to the campus; provide much-needed, state-of-the-art, high-tech nursing education classrooms for a vital and growing program; and show that the college and community can benefit from the success of partnership with private entities.

The $4.7-million facility, dedicated in December 2001, was completed by Orlando, Fla.-based VOA Associates.

3. Enriching the Campus Life

The Norman S. and Lida M. Smith Academic Technology Center at Waltham, Mass.-based Bentley College grew out of the need for a new building with technologically sophisticated, interactive classrooms to support the business curriculum. The building was also expected to enrich overall campus life -- foster informal interaction among students and the exchange of ideas, promote innovative thinking, and create a sense of community.

The building site -- a steep hillside that drops more than 100 ft. from the academic campus atop the hill to the residential campus below -- was a formidable design challenge. The solution was to connect the several building levels that step down the steep incline with a wide, multilevel, glass-walled indoor “main street” that provides sweeping views of the woods and campus below. This communal space is an important visual connector that joins the academic facilities to the residential campus below.

The building’s brick-clad upper portion complements the neo-Georgian campus, built in the 1960s and 1980s, and completes the formal academic campus courtyard at the top of the hill. The asymmetrical massing of the classroom wing responds instead to the more informal residential campus below.

The four-story building is anchored by a 48-seat financial Trading Room, which is one of only a handful of such facilities in the United States. The 3,300-sq.-ft. room offers students firsthand experience with hands-on trading sessions and other financial concepts.

Each of the 27 classrooms has hard-wired network connections to every workstation and is fully equipped with state-of-the-art audiovisual and multimedia technologies. The entire complex is networked for voice and data communications. A distance learning classroom with video streaming allows individuals to participate in live videoconferences from anywhere in the world. The building also houses The Design and Usability Center, where students receive instruction in the field of information design and software products.

The 72,731-gsf building was completed in summer 2000 by Boston-based Goody Clancy & Associates.

4. A Link in Time

The Malicky Center for the Social Sciences at Baldwin-Wallace in Berea, Ohio, features a classroom building that links two historical buildings at the southwest corner of the north campus in an architecturally sensitive manner, and creates functional and welcoming new facilities through their adaptive reuse.

The Malicky Center includes renovations to two existing buildings and construction of an attached new building containing a main entrance, tiered classroom for 60 to 65 students, elevator, restrooms and mechanical spaces. The project also features nine general use classrooms for 35 students each; two computer labs for 30 students; animal and human behavior psychology labs; three suites of faculty offices for sociology, psychology and political science; a student lounge; and study areas. A circulation spine connects the complex on three levels and offers students niche areas for quiet reading and views to the outside campus.

The new building is clad in Berea sandstone in a combination of rock and smooth faces, blending and deferring with the older, historical buildings. Other exterior materials include an anodized aluminum curtainwall system, clear insulating glass and composite metal panels. As a special amenity, an intimate, south-facing courtyard is formed by the linking of the three buildings into one unified ensemble.

The 45,950-sq.-ft. facility was completed in 2000 at a construction cost of $6 million by Cleveland-based van Dijk Pace Westlake Architects.