New Residence Hall Keeping with Tradition – Integrated Old and New
North Village Phase II – Allegheny College
Designed by ROCKiT Founder Brian DiPietro while at WTW Architects
When Allegheny College wanted to complete its North Village residential quad, they wanted a building that fit more with the tradition of campus than the ultra-modern Phase I, but still embraced and welcomed Phase I as part of the overall design.
The design-build phase II of Allegheny College’s North Village is a four-story concrete block and plank residence hall that uses geothermal energy and has achieved LEED Gold status. It was important to the college that the new building respected the campus, it’s new neighbor in Phase I, and the campus’ overall architectural look – which is predominantly more classical/historical architecture with a few modern buildings. And because the college was acting as developer, it had to meet the budget, and as such, generate a minimum amount of revenue.
Luckily for the college, Brian is very well versed in pro formas and understands how the balancing of a budget for a project like this works. So when the project needed a minimum number of beds, and that there were other college imposed restrictions on height and footprint of the building, he understood what the limited options were to address the issue. And they were the right restrictions – as proven by the final design and acceptance of the project.
From the Owner:
“This 232 bed development elegantly responds to our traditional campus architecture, with its handsome brick facades and stone accents, entry porches, well-proportioned windows and steeply sloped roofs. The environmentally friendly landscaping with courtyards, an iconic pedestrian bridge feature and brick walkways sensitively links this development with both the Phase One housing and the campus core. Although the RFP requested a LEED Silver design, we were delighted that the project was certified as LEED Gold, which reflects the commitment by Allegheny College and your team for sustainable practices.”
-Larry Lee, Former Sr. Associate VP Allegheny College.
The Story Behind The Design:
In order to keep a smaller building footprint and lower building height, while adding more beds, the design carves out a space in the building courtyard to bring light into the basement, allowing more beds to be added. And to make that space special, one of the most popular places on campus serves as inspiration.
In order to mesh with the campus architecture and the newer North Village Phase I buildings, a design is necessary that respects and responds to both. The new building’s massing is carefully designed, with even the floor plans being uniquely tailored to fit the site, to match the sizes and massing of the first phase. Floor to floor heights and windows adjust to match the roof lines of the two buildings (really three). In addition to matching the first phase in massing, there is important opening, or gap, into the North Village quad from campus to the south. So, the southern “arm” of the new building is held back to create a larger opening between the buildings, meaning less room for units (it was already limited by height to match phase I).
The design carves out a bowl, eliminating a retaining wall in the building, allowing for those basement spaces to become a true ground floor, adding windows, and making it feel like a truly livable space. In doing so, these new “basement” windows can’t look out onto another retaining wall or just a steep slope, it needs to be something special, and have a reason. So one of campus’ most iconic locations was used as a source of inspiration, the rustic bridge and surrounding ravine. Often a favorite gathering space of students, with it’s own legend, it’s a beautiful natural area along the path to the Old Main building.
Expanding on this beautiful piece of campus, the design creates its own ravine and bridge. While it couldn’t have a real creek flowing through it, it includes rain gardens in the design, and includes many of the same flora associated with the ravine – which is great because it is mostly evergreen, giving students year-round views of the greenery. For the bridge, a modern, yet turn-of the century looking steel structure is used – it doesn’t matter that it isn’t wood like its inspiration – building it out of steel provides a more maintenance friendly structure and isn’t a direct copy of the original. It also provides the opportunity to extend the bridge through the building and out the front, for a subtle Juliet balcony above the main front doors extending the symbolism. And even if it isn’t wood, the students still get the idea. And the bridge allows for an easy connection to the neighboring phase I quad, while allowing students going to class the shorter route coming out of the ground (basement) floor level.
From the Owner:
“The finished project…is a most pleasing structure that fits in exceptionally well with our historic campus. It is the most popular residence hall and has performed very well since put into service. Your team demonstrated excellent cost control, professional project management, communication skills, and a thorough understanding of the College’s goals (they listened to us!).”
-Clifford K. Willis, P.E., Director of Physical Plant, Allegheny College.