Building Better Living Learning Communities in Student Housing

Traditional looking four story red brick living learning student housing community dormitory building with clapboard siding and large gables

IUP Residential Revival Phase I – Indiana University of Pennsylvania

Partially Designed & Managed by ROCKiT Founder Brian DiPietro while at WTW Architects

The Project:

When Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP) began their living learning community focused student housing project, it kicked off what would culminate in the largest on-campus student housing replacement project in the United States.

Building on their relationship from working together on Slippery Rock University & California Univeristy of PA, WTW Architects and Allen & O’Hara/EdR Trust (now Greystar) teamed and eventually won the contract for the campus-wide student housing overhaul. IUP’s vision for the project was to provide a true living learning community environment, 24/7 learning, in their residence halls while maintaining a residential feel to give the students a home away from home.
Model of campus with new student housing buildings, trees, roads, and topography
The project began with a seven-phase master plan and included a detailed model of the initial phases of the project, built by Brian. He also designed the floor plan and building layouts, which heavily factored into the look and massing of the building designs. Eventually this efficient floor planning would result in the reduction of the project to four phases, minimizing the amount of disturbance to students, both in time and space. It also resulted in a level of integration for the living learning elements far beyond anything anyone imagined.
The living-learning components of the student housing were so well integrated, that officers from the Office of Homeland Security space in one building have taught gun safety classes in the classroom-like study lounges in the residential floors of the building. The buildings also include a nursing simulation lab, convenience store, campus IT center, and Office of Social Equity.

The Story Behind the Design:

The buildings are designed to appear as residential looking as possible, to make the students feel at home, while encouraging the ability for 24/7 learning with lounge and study spaces on every floor. Outside, they include a heavy stone base to respect the site’s history that was removed to make way for the new future for the campus.

Streetscape with traditional looking red brick building with stone bases and limestone accents going down the street with a sidewalk and trees and shrubs planted along the living learning student housing community dormitory building
In addition to trying to achieve a generally residential look, Brian went above and beyond the firm’s standard approach of only looking at how the building appears when viewed head on. He also focused the design on making the building massing appear as a series of rowhouses when you walk down the road, realizing how it would be perceived in real life. Think of a typical San Francisco streetscape, lined with Victorian homes.
The idea at hand is there’s more to a residential look than just materials and patterns, it’s about the massing, the shapes, and how you perceive the space as you move through it. Breaking the building down, by strategically locating and shaping the units allowed for a smaller physical scale to the building elements – on a scale more associated with residential spaces. Otherwise, it is just going to be lipstick on a pig – some of these buildings are over six hundred feet long, but don’t always feel like it. This is why the floor plans that Brian created were so important to the design.
The residence halls themselves are intended to fit in with the campus as much as possible, while looking more residential. To do this, red brick complimenting many campus buildings is used, and of course, because the school’s logo is red. But more notably, rusticated (rough) stone is used as the buildings’ base to maintain this area of campus’ sixteen-foot high historic retaining walls as a nod to the campus’ history. These walls were torn down to make way for construction of the second phase, and allow for a greater connection throughout campus.
The buildings themselves act as retaining walls to help traverse the sloping site where they are built, giving the opportunity for unrestricted amenity spaces that are critical to a proper living learning environment. Game rooms, large multipurpose rooms, study rooms with whiteboard paint on the walls, kitchens with large dining rooms and even bicycle storage rooms all open up onto the newly created courtyard spaces on the lower side of these walls. And even more lounges, kitchens, and study spaces are included on each floor at the center of the buildings, with strategically located access points to allow anyone on campus with keys to meet in these spaces. Satellite study lounges are located within each wing, encouraging impromptu study sessions for the less social students, or late-night study sessions, when security is more of a concern.
Phase I was just the beginning of the Residential Revival, with the two new building’s layout allowing for a connecting stair and ramp between the buildings. This initiated, a fully ADA accessible central circulation path on campus, leading from the Student Union to the north, down to the campus’ southernmost building and athletic fields beyond.

Putt & Delaney Halls – Indiana University of Pennsylvania

  • Owner: Foundation for Indiana University of Pennsylvania
  • Developer: Allen & O’Hara (now part of Greystar)
  • Contractor: Massaro Construction
  • Architect: WTW Architects
  • Project Architect: Warren Bulseco
  • Project Manager: Brian DiPietro
  • Delivery Method: GMP
  • Construction Type: Wood Framed over Podium
  • Project Size: 750 Beds/ 290,000 SF
  • Construction Cost: $35.5M
  • Completion: Summer 2007
  • Sustainability Rating: LEED Certified
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