Architect: Marble Fairbanks Architects
Owner: Lawrence University
Contractor: Boldt Construction
This project is a 25,000sf renovation of two floors in Colman Hall, a 1950’s residential building originally designed by Frank C. Shattuck Associates on the Lawrence University campus. The design repurposes original dining and kitchen spaces for shared group lofts, introducing a new model for residential living to Lawrence University.
Four new lofts each offer a small group housing residential option for student organizations and groups with shared interests. Looking to maximize housing on campus, the University asked for innovative solutions to these underutilized spaces. Group living opportunities are primarily located in houses close to campus, so this model presented an opportunity to fold group options into an existing residential building with traditional dorm rooms and shared social spaces. The lofts, while operating independently, are also more directly connected to the social structure of the campus. Colman Hall overlooks historic paper manufacturing buildings along the Fox River, some of which have been turned into housing, and which served as a precedent for introducing the loft typology. The industrial character of manufacturing lofts (unusually deep floor plates) and structural idiosyncrasies of the existing building are incorporated into the design.
In addition to the living lofts, the project includes a range of amenities shared with the existing residence hall including a media den, a shared kitchen for communal cooking, built-in lounge seating, study zones, a living room, and a courtyard lounge. The existing courtyard offered unique opportunities for the design. Program spaces include re-envisioning the existing corridor, adjacent to the courtyard and facing a wooded slope, as a critical part of the social space in the building. The project provides new lounge seating along the path to encourage informal occupation of that busy hallway. A new stair along that corridor, connecting campus level to the lower level is a significant design element, as well as a new skylight and double-height opening bringing light to the middle of that floor.
The design approach strategically opens up the original building to physically connect interior spaces to each other and also connect it to the surrounding campus. The windows at either side of the building entry, originally clerestory openings, were significantly enlarged and the walls of the entry and lounges were removed in order to form continuous visual connections between inside and outside. Within the building, we exposed existing concrete columns and ceilings and added materials to juxtapose the raw structure with an updated palette of materials, including new terrazzo flooring, wood flooring, and a rebuilt brick fireplace with integrated seating. Furniture includes custom communal dining tables made from reclaimed wood from campus buildings and blackened steel for the shared dining room and all the lofts. The choice to first find more housing opportunities within existing buildings, along with specific material choices throughout the project, reflect Lawrence University’s overarching commitment to sustainable solutions on campus.
Work includes replacing all HVAC systems, new plumbing, fire protection updates, electrical replacement as needed, new exterior windows with façade patching, and furniture and finish selections. During construction, we uncovered significant structural damage, due to settlement on the steep slope over the years, which required micro piles to restabilize the foundations. This project innovatively updates an existing building, repurposes underutilized spaces for unique new active living spaces on campus, and demonstrates Lawrence University’s commitment to working sustainably on their campus.
Photos: ArchPhoto, Inc.