Open Sky and Flexible Space
at University of Southern
creates indoor outdoor learning community--
October 12, 2007,
The design consists of three major zones, each wrapping around the other’s perimeter, starting with the most public zone at the center—the atrium—and becoming increasingly private toward the perimeter of the building.
The central atrium space cohesively connects the new floor with the floors below and provides light and air for the previously dark second floor hallways. This tall atrium space forms the physical heart of the school, generating a strong identity for the entire building. It serves as entry, review space and forum for lectures and informal talks.
Wrapping around the central atrium space, the open studio zone is designed to be the most flexible of the addition, providing a “plug and play” learning and research environment. The 16-foot floor to ceiling height, in combination with a solid row of clerestory windows and the additional light from the central atrium, creates a light, airy and welcoming environment for short and long periods of study. The roof overhang above the clerestory windows was developed with intensive lighting simulation in order to prevent glare in a heavily computer oriented studio environment. Floor access points in strategic locations allow data and power to be distributed for flexible furniture layout alternatives.
At the perimeter, the new floor becomes increasingly porous. A ten-foot zone houses a multitude of private and semi-private uses. There, pairs of faculty/research offices alternate with terrace gardens open to the sky. Floor to ceiling storefronts between studios and sky gardens provide visual communication and additional daylight for the studio spaces. To reach the offices, one must enter through one of the gardens, which are screened at the building’s perimeter to serve as planting surface and to provide additional safety beyond the railings.
While the offices are reserved for individuals, the open gardens form an ideal meeting place for students and faculty. The four corner suites which serve as seminar rooms are three times the size of the individual offices. They also provide headquarters for the four graduate programs: Architecture, Building Sciences, Landscape and Historic Preservation.
The perimeter studio wall, facing the faculty and research offices, is conceived as a presentation wall and is lit by a continuous row of wall washers. The general lighting level at night is provided by metal halide ceiling washers mounted to the main structural columns. The interior color palette is muted in order to allow a contrast between the architectural shell of the building and its colorful inhabitants and their work.
One of the main objectives of the design was to create an indoor-outdoor learning environment and to provide a maximum of natural ventilation to the building to highlight the temperate climate of
At the building’s exterior, two stairs provide additional access to the third floor and enhance the social exchange within the courtyard between Watt Hall and Harris Hall. One stair leads from the ground floor to one of the connecting bridges while the other leads from the bridge to a generous public terrace at the new third floor. In addition to the main entrance through the central atrium space, the exterior stairs foster chance encounters and additional public space.
Accommodating faculty and students within four different areas of architectural emphasis as well as the USC administration—with an extremely limited budget of $8.2 million—Kapeller has demonstrated his ability to build consensus through the design process. Previously Kapeller earned international acclaim for the Alexandria Library in
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