Arcadia’s Evolution: The New University Commons

In Uncategorized on November 13, 2008 at 6:12 am


Frances Halsband knows Arcadia. Her architecture firm, Kliment-Halsband, designed the Landman Library’s expansion and her design for the University Commons will soon come to life in front of the Kuch Center. We spoke with  Ms. Halsband about her vision for Arcadia and the future of Beaver Beach.

Tower: This is the second major project Kliment-Halsband has designed for Arcadia. What architectural themes have you maintained or improved upon from the Landman Library?

Frances Halsband:
For the Landman Library we were designing a building that wouldn’t compete with the castle, but would hold its own as an anchor on the other side of campus. The library is kind of a serious limestone building. When we got to thinking about the University Commons, we were trying to make a building that would connect and reach out to the library and the grey towers castle. So the building as a design, and an architectural organism, is meant to connect the campus. There is a bridge that connects the castle to the upper levels, there is an entrance on the ground level near the soccer field and a rear entrance, so we’re hoping it connects the different areas of the campus. The goal was to make this building permeable and welcoming visually.

Tower: Does Kliment-Halsband specialize in a particular architectural style?

Frances Halsband: Most of our work is on university campuses, so we specialize in the problems of college life. We needed to make this building a place of the future. Focusing on making it a green building and letting a lot of natural light in.

Tower: What specific elements about the design make it a green building?

Frances Halsband:
Well, the obvious ones: using as much light as possible, and as many recycled materials as we can. Right now, we’re doing a study to see if the building could be geothermal. We will drill under the soccer field to see what type of heat could be collected for geothermal uses.

Tower: The soccer field is a beloved landmark on AU’s campus, becoming a social center (lovingly nicknamed Beaver Beach) during the warmer months. What steps have you taken to respect or enhance that environment?

Frances Halsband: Well, first of all, let me just say if the building is geothermal, it will all be under the grass. They will not prevent anyone from playing soccer. Soccer players will not disappear into the wells. But, more than that, the student lounges all look out on the field and there is an outdoor deck that we really see as a place to watch games, or hang out and watch whatever other event is going on. So we really see the University Commons as an extension of Beaver Beach.

Tower: Arcadia has a long history with distinctive architecture, the Castle being the most obvious example. What do you think makes the University Commons distinctly Arcadian?

Frances Halsband:
Well, when we started designing the library the curve design came up as a way to tie the buildings together. It had a resonance in the circular shape of castle. When we looked at the student center, we thought doing another curved building would be too much, so we tried not to make such a drastic curve design. But the roofline is still a distinctive curve. The curve on the inside is actually a delineator between the lounge areas and the meeting rooms. We’re also using similar materials to tie the buildings together. Near the castle, we are using the same grey stone the castle is made out of. Then near the library, it changes to glass along with a similar stone as the library, but it’s a darker stone.

Tower: Glass is also a major element in the University Commons’ design. Why did you decide to use glass?

Frances Halsband: Well, for two or three reasons. First, bringing daylight in. And second, making connections with things inside the building and outside. It’s really about making connections between the different sections of campus.

Is there anything else you would like Arcadia students to know about the building?

Frances Halsband:
I would just tell them there will be many smaller meeting rooms of various sizes, but I think what will make the building useful are big rooms that can be designed by students over time. There is a big student activities space on second floor and considering the nature of student clubs I think it will really evolve and develop in the future.


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