Category Archives: Campus Architecture

Historical Context

Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History (Centerbrook Architects/James Corner Field Operations)

Our current job designing the expansion and renovation of the historic Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History is fascinating in a number of ways. I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t encourage you to read more about that on our project page, but in this blog post I wanted to share a neat historical tidbit that ties the Peabody with another prominent past client.

Like any of our renovation projects, I try to poke around the internet and find out all I can about a building’s history. And one of the pieces I always look for is who was the original architect. With the Peabody Museum, I was fairly quickly able to discover that it was designed by Charles Klauder. That was confirmed by an image of the original plans our architectural staff had attained.

Peabody Museum plans, dated March 21, 1923 (Yale University)

My inquiring mind then wanted to know more about Klauder. I quickly learned that he was one of the most notable campus architects of the 20th century, and he started in the profession at age 15! His list of design credits include institutions like Brown, Cornell and Princeton.

With a passion for sports history, I immediately recognized the name of perhaps his most famous campus building: the Cathedral of Learning at Pittsburgh. It was from atop the Cathedral that this famous and stunning image was taken of the 1960 World Series at Forbes Field below.

For the non-baseball historian, the Cathedral of Learning is notable as it is the tallest education building in the U.S. at 42 stories. It’s an icon not only of the University of Pittsburgh, but of the city itself.

Cathedral of Learning, University of Pittsburgh (Don Burkett/Wikimedia Commons)

After learning Klauder designed the Cathedral at Pitt, next I noticed he did Franklin Field at Penn. Wow. The Palestra, too. Double wow. Now you’re talking my language. Each of those venues oozes with sports history.

Franklin Field is home to the famed Penn Relays, Quakers football, and once upon a time the Philadelphia Eagles. Franklin is where the Eagles’ last NFL championship prior to this past season was clinched, and where the infamous Santa Claus incident took place.

The Palestra is a revered basketball cathedral. It has held more college hoops games than any court in the nation, for Penn, the Big Five and many others. It was at the leading edge of arena design at the time as it was one of the first without interior support pillars that obstructed sightlines.

The Palestra, University of Pennsylvania (Peetlesnumber1/Wikimedia Commons)

All that said, now back to my original point of tying the Peabody Museum to our previous work.

Klauder is also highly regarded for his master plan for the University of Colorado at Boulder. This was significant in that it established a distinct building style, later referred to as Tuscan Vernacular Revival, that CU is known for to this day. Klauder further set the precedent by subsequently designing 15 buildings on campus in the style.

In the 2000s, we added two new buildings to the CU landscape. Prior to that, recent building had strayed from the Tuscan Vernacular. But with the Wolf School of Law Building and the Center for Community, our designers built on the style Klauder established.

Center for Community and Wolf Law School, University of Colorado (Jeff Goldberg/ESTO)

Fast forward to 2018, and here we are once again, with an an opportunity to add to another Klauder design, this time at Yale. While the interior renovations will provide the first substantial modernization in the building’s history, the addition and new tower is a modern ode to the existing iconic design that has stood the test of time.

Much like the effort we started a decade ago in Colorado.

Addition, Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History (Centerbrook Architects/James Corner Field Operations)

Ties That Bind

Reese Stadium, Yale University.

Past and present have connected in New Haven County for a pair of our longstanding clients.

Construction of the new athletic complex at Quinnipiac University began last fall on the Mt. Carmel campus in Hamden, Connecticut, and will continue through the remainder of the academic year. As a result, the Bobcat men’s and women’s lacrosse teams needed a temporary home for their respective 2017 schedules.

Enter Yale University and Reese Stadium, also one of our projects.

The Reese job entailed a significant renovation and expansion of what was then a 30-year-old facility. The modernized lacrosse and soccer stadium reopened in 2011.

Six years later, Reese has welcomed its neighbors to the north. The 1,250-seat stadium is serving as host venue for Quinnipiac’s 2017 home contests.

The Bobcat women’s lacrosse squad has already played twice at Reese. The first resulted in a win. The second was technically an away game as it came versus the primary inhabitants of the facility – the Bulldogs of Yale – and ended in defeat. They’ll be back at Reese this weekend for one of five remaining games there on the calendar.

A preseason favorite to win its conference title, the Bobcat men’s lacrosse team held the first of six “home” games at Reese this past weekend and fell by a narrow one-goal margin. Unlike the women, the Quinnipiac and Yale men aren’t scheduled to face each other in 2017. Both made the NCAA Tournament last year, however, so you never know what the future may hold.

Quinnipiac’s new lacrosse and soccer venue, as well as an adjacent field hockey facility, will open for competition later this year.

Construction progress at the new Quinnipiac complex. The lacrosse-soccer facility is in the foreground with field hockey in the background. Photo courtesy FIP Construction.

The Idea Workshop

Come workshop your ideal learning environment with us this week at NAIS 2017.

It’s that time of year again. The 2017 National Association of Independent Schools Annual Conference (#NAISAC on Twitter) is on tap this week, and we’re looking forward to heading down to Baltimore.

If you’re attending, drop by Centerbrook’s Idea Workshop (Booth 315) or follow our conversation on Twitter at #WhatsYourVision. Tell us what you think makes for an ideal learning environment. We’ll be using a graffiti wall and a tabletop space planning exercise to interactively create and share ideas about learning space design.

So #WhatsYourVision for the ideal classroom? Maker labs? Collaborative spaces? Outdoor integration? Join the conversation. We’d love to hear from you.

If you stop by, you’ll meet Todd Andrews, Russell Learned and Katie Roden Symonds. Todd and Russell lead Centerbrook’s Pedagogy CoDE (Community of Design Expertise) and all three are at the forefront of research and practice in education design.

The NAIS Conference is an annual gathering of independent school administrators, trustees and teachers. This year’s conference will be held March 1-3 at the Baltimore Convention Center in Maryland.

Centerbrook Independent School Portfolio

MICDS Robotics Laboratory.

Reflections on a “Whole New School”

Photos by Joe Darwal

Centerbrook has designed and overseen the construction of a new academic and science wing for the University School, a renowned independent school for boys located in Hunting Valley, Ohio. Gently curving away from the school’s main academic and administration building and down the center of a peninsula in a nearby lake, the rectangular structure’s windowed south wall harvests both natural light and solar heat. The three-story, 52,000-square-foot building is slated for either LEED Silver or Gold and is now open for the current school year.

In addition to its Upper School facilities at Hunting Valley for grades 9 through12, University School maintains a second campus for K-8 in Shaker Heights, Ohio.

Centerbrook Partner Mark Simon, FAIA, who led a design team with Project Manager Russell Learned and Associate Katie Roden, both AIA, discussed the project with me recently.  Continue reading Reflections on a “Whole New School”

Colorful Architecture

Photos: Jeff Goldberg/Esto

Picking colors totally freaks people out, from homeowners to Fortune 500 CEOs. Re-painting, even re-re-painting is common. Getting the six exterior colors right at the new Hillside Research Campus at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory was critical to its success in blending in: both with the built and natural setting at the venerable institution and also with the character of the surrounding community. Re-painting was not an option.

The project was recently named one of six finalists in the World Architecture News Colour Awards. The jurors pared the international field from 79 to Hillside Campus, two schools in England and Slovenia, an office building in France, a residential tower in Australia, and a biochemistry building at Oxford University in England.  Continue reading Colorful Architecture

Once You Saw it…Now You Don’t

A short while ago, when coming down Prospect Street in New Haven, you would have spied a sleek, one-story, silver classroom and office building with horizontal metal siding and long patterns of windows that seemed to race by each other. It was an intriguing curiosity, boldly announcing that it was having fun. And yet its demure profile let it nestle neatly into a residential neighborhood. Long and sinuous, it meandered around a flagstone-paved entry court with floor-to-ceiling glass under a short porch, welcoming academics to enter.

There was more than a hint of acceleration. Designed a decade ago and constructed in only 9 months (and at half the going cost), this was a temporary building to house Yale’s Political Science Department, which was homeless following the demolition of its old digs and before the establishment of a permanent base. Continue reading Once You Saw it…Now You Don’t

The Best Laid Plans…

Center for Community, University of Colorado Boulder, Photo by Casey A. Cass

Anyone who has remodeled a bathroom, or even a broom closet, knows that building projects tend not to proceed as planned. Surprises are common, and the work can take longer and cost more than expected – if one is not vigilant. Even when the execution goes smoothly, sometimes the basic concept is flawed: for example, the outdoor hot tub that nobody uses after the first month due to the resident black fly population and the astronomical electric bill.

Things didn’t go exactly as planned with the Center for Community (C4C) at the University of Colorado, Boulder, which is home to nearly 30,000 students. At more than 300,000 square feet, the new building is much larger than a broom closet and was designed to foster community on a sprawling campus among students, faculty and staff, and even individuals from the surrounding towns. That was the plan, anyway. Continue reading The Best Laid Plans…

Designing on the Fly

Center for Community "Working Wall"

Editor’s Note: Architect Scott Allen was a member of the Centerbrook design team led by partner Jim Childress for the University of Colorado at Boulder’s Center for Community. Revit is the 3D modeling software that, along with other new technologies, has revolutionized how and where architectural design and planning can be conducted. Below, Scott recounts three days in the life of modern design, a frenetic hi-tech road trip that was preceded by three months of preliminary research and collaboration with the client and members of the widely dispersed design team. It would take several more months to finalize the planning for the 320,000-square-foot building, which opened last fall to critical acclaim both on and off campus.

CENTERBROOK, CT – March 4, 2008, 9:04 AM EST: Design charette with Jim. We (OK, mostly Jim) have sketched out about a dozen different ideas; thankfully, he settles on five. Peter and I have the rest of the day to lay them out floor by floor in Revit to confirm we’re in the client’s programmatic ballpark.

1:00 PM – Transcontinental GoTo Meeting with the Davis Partnership design team, our collaborators in Colorado, to discuss schedule, presentation materials, and evaluate various schemes – also to confirm we will have time in Denver to print drawings and construct massing models for the five building concepts. No way airport security will let us walk on board armed to the teeth with drawing tubes.

March 5, 4:15 AM – Leaving house to make flight to Denver

5:33 AM – Bradley Airport: Peter’s new pants still have price tags on them. I have an internal debate over whether to tell him. Continue reading Designing on the Fly

Green Grow the Campuses

Wind Garden at Quinnipiac University
Wind Garden at Quinnipiac University

How green a campus is today is a crucial factor in a college’s admissions, affecting not simply the number of applicants but also the percentage of accepted students, known as “the yield,” who chose to attend a given four-year institution.  Since the average applicant now applies to seven schools, the competition for top candidates is obviously fierce.  Recently the yield nationwide dropped four points to 45 percent, meaning that more than half the students who were accepted at various colleges and universities demurred.  As the number of graduating high school seniors decreases from a peak this year of 3.33 million, the battle can only intensify, especially as guidance counselors are reporting that a growing number of students are putting college on hold due to the economy.

So a green campus is among the features that this shrinking pool of selective students value.  I am not referring only to the aesthetic mix of trees, grass and shrubbery, important as they are, but to the ethical concern that an institution exhibits over energy conservation and impact of its greenhouse gas emissions on the environment.  The verb “exhibits” should be emphasized.  Colleges not only need to walk the walk, they want to be able to talk the walk, to show the world they are doing their part in protecting the environment.

A final argument for the greening of American campuses in a demonstrative fashion is the fact that sustainability has recently entered most educational curriculums.  In fact, it is among the fastest growing academic majors, according to a recent national poll.  Green infrastructure, therefore, can serve a duel role: as a responsible way to conserve and generate energy and as a “real world” teaching tool.

Continue reading Green Grow the Campuses

Designing Spaces for Modern Students

Buckingham Brown & Nichols
Buckingham Brown & Nichols

For my son’s recent college project he was paired with another student, something that would have been exceedingly rare (if not unheard of) during my bright (if that is the right word) college years.  We wandered lonely as a cloud, scholastically speaking.  It was me against the professor, with precious little backup.

But group education is the reality of modern academia, certainly from secondary school through college.  Young people move in sizeable packs.  They date in groups, study in groups, do projects in groups, hang out in buzy chat rooms, make conference calls on their cell phones.  They have more than individual friends, they have groups of friends, often quite well defined units.  Their generational tag name fits: the “millennials.”  It is something like the hypothetical movie sequel: “The Dirty Dozen Goes to High School.”

As an architect, I try to keep this phenomenon in the front of my mind when designing or renovating buildings to accommodate modern students.  They need spaces to gather, both inside and out, beyond formal common rooms or large courtyards.  This is fine with me because I love creating spaces, siting and planning projects with an eye to the places between buildings, as well as those within the walls. Continue reading Designing Spaces for Modern Students