Facilities (Campus Spaces)

Looking Back, Moving Forward

Historic Campus

PHOTO COURTESY STANFORD UNIVERSITY, SPECIAL COLLECTIONS AND UNIVERSITY ARCHIVES

Building on historic campuses can be a conundrum. There’s so much history to protect and preserve, yet contemporary buildings should be just that: contemporary. Three architects talk about the challenges and rewards of building on historic campuses.

Stanford University

Frederick Law Olmsted, along with architectural firm Shepley, Rutan and Coolidge, designed Stanford University’s California Mission-inspired campus in the late 1880s. The campus has many buildings made of local sandstone and red-tiled roofs, but, “even our historic buildings have different styles,” admits Stanford University Architect David Lenox.

Preservation is most important when maintaining structures on Stanford’s Quad. But Lenox references four points when planning a new building on campus: Does it adhere to Olmstead’s original master plan? Does it connect to the landscape in a respectful way? Is the scale appropriate for pedestrian traffic? And, most importantly, Is the material palette cohesive with the rest of the campus?

To that end, the school highly encourages architects to use a specific, buff-colored limestone, along with deep bronze and “Stanford Black,” but doesn’t insist on it. “We are not slaves to the materials but we do want to make sure things fit,” explains Lenox.

They are also not afraid to add some completely modern elements. Look to Stanford’s famous d.school for a case in point. The structure was built in four phases with one sandstone wing, two stucco wings and “a bad infill center,” according to Lenox. The infill was replaced with a contemporary box that features curtain walls to expose and celebrate the older materials. “It was a way to update the building, keep the defining characteristics and infuse modern qualities.”

Historic Campus

PHOTO © LINDA A. CICERO/STANFORD NEWS SERVICE

THIS ONE’S A KEEPER. The National Register of Historic Places recommends that when deteriorated, damaged or lost features of a historic building need repair or replacement, it is almost always best to use historic materials. For a college or university, care must be taken to do so while finding the balance between preserving a historic facility and also updating it with today’s energy and sustainability standards as well as contemporary aesthetics.

The Old Chem building, one of the original Stanford Noble buildings, offers another example. The structure sat idle, mothballed after an earthquake toppled its 39 chimneys. Stanford could have replaced it, but a large donation allowed a renovation that blends the classic architecture with modern elements. After gutting the building, the school interwove classic, defining elements like wood wainscoting and wrought-iron railings with modern interventions like a curved glass lobby. “It’s a powerful reminder of our history but will still work for the students of tomorrow,” says Lenox.

Duke University

Say Duke University, and you instantly think of the late 1920s Collegiate Gothic Quad, designed by Horace Trumbauer, Julian F. Abele and the Olmstead Brothers. The Durham, NC-based school has grown quite a bit since then, radiating out from the historic quad, but never forgets its core. When working on a new structure, Greg Warwick, AIA, coordinating architect, Duke University, looks for “unity but not uniformity,” in the design.

Historic Campus

PHOTO © CHRIS HILDRETH/DUKE PHOTOGRAPHY

Location matters when choosing building materials. New structures on or near the historic quad must use “Duke Stone” on their façades to achieve that unity. However, the architect is free to explore other modern yet appropriate materials for the building’s sides and back. ZGF Architects LLP did just that when designing the Center for Interdisciplinary Engineering, Medicine and Applied Sciences in 2004.

Forms and structures get more contemporary as they move away from the central quad. “We don’t want to be seen as stuck in 1930,” explains Warwick. Yet he does not advocate modernity just for the sake of it. “There may not be much contextual inhibition a half mile from the quad, but it still has to look like a Duke building,” he says. Warwick remains a staunch advocate for variety but he doesn’t want something, “so unique that you don’t know where you are.”

Warwick is not a fan of using traditional materials in untraditional ways. He points to several projects from the 1960s to the 1980s that experimented with Duke Stone — using it in a large panel or turning it on its side — and calls them unsuccessful. “It just doesn’t look right,” he says. In fact, the demand for classically used Duke Stone remains so strong that a cottage industry of expert masons has sprung up in the surrounding region.

Historic Campus

PHOTO © CHRIS HILDRETH/DUKE PHOTOGRAPHY

Warwick spends much if his time maintaining, repairing and restoring historic buildings. Admittedly, it’s a challenge. “I walked around campus all summer looking at doors, trying to pick the right stain. They’re all different,” he laments. Warwick is also challenged by the many steel windows on the quad. Not well insulated and sustainability-challenged, the windows nevertheless persist. “They would never be replaced,” Warwick insists. “We repair them and put more insulation elsewhere.”

College of Charleston

When first considering the design of the Marlene and Nathan Addlestone Library, College of Charleston President Alex “Judge” Sanders had a very specific vision in mind. After all, the South Carolina-based school, founded in the 1770s, drips with history. There are venerable rows of live oak trees draped with Spanish moss and several buildings with National Historic Landmark designations. Dr. Sanders wanted the library to mirror one of those structures. “He said ‘I want the library to look exactly like Randolph Hall,’” recalls William McCuen, director of design, KAI Design & Build.

Historic Campus

PHOTO COURTESY OF THE COLLEGE OF CHARLESTON

Of course, constructing a three-story, 140,000-square-foot, contemporary library to look like one of the oldest college buildings still in use in the U.S. just was not financially feasible or aesthetically correct. Winning over the college president and the many, many impassioned stakeholders proved a challenge. “The City of Charleston is the most controlled environment I’ve ever seen and I was on the National Capital Planning Commission,” McCuen insists.

McCuen eventually convinced the community that a poor-quality counterfeit would insult rather than complement the city’s rich history. He still drew from local inspiration, however — in this case the similarly massed Fort Sumter and Fort Moultrie — and used a stucco that looks similar to the rough-textured Tabby concrete used throughout the city.

Today the library is both a success story and a trailblazer. Since opening in 2005, the building has been joined by other contemporary structures, including the Beatty Center School of Business and the 26,000-square-foot dining hall named the Liberty Street Fresh Food Company.

This article originally appeared in the April 2017 issue of College Planning & Management.

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