reed magazine logospring2007
Dorm life, 2007

this new 'old' house

WHEN THE TIME CAME for ZGF to draw up plans for the college’s newest residence halls, architects looked for inspiration to one of its oldest—Anna Mann.

Every year, Anna Mann ranks as the most popular house on campus, followed closely by Old Dorm Block. Students like being near the center of the action—Gray Campus Center, the student union, the south lawn. But Anna Mann has something more: a strong sense of community that students cherish. The building is relatively small, housing about 30 students who share first-floor common space including a kitchen, dining area, and living room. Students also appreciate the building’s idiosyncrasies—the nooks and crannies that make the space distinctive and welcoming.

As ZGF went about developing plans for new residence halls, the architects understood that bigger was not necessarily better. “Architects spend their entire careers trying to figure out what Goldilocks knew instinctively: when things are too hot or too cold, too big or too small, and when things are just right,” says Frasca. “We’re trying to do this just right.”

English professor Laura Leibman, who served on the residence hall advisory committee, says she and her colleagues urged the architects to create buildings that would foster Reed’s intense academic lifestyle, meaning “a lot of student interaction with faculty, and student interaction with each other, and informal intellectual conversations that continue conference.” The plans are on target, she says—“not a massive block building with no social spaces, but rather, smaller buildings with social spaces that encourage interaction.”

The four new residence halls will be laid out in a quadrangle open to the south. Like Anna Mann, each of the three-story buildings will house 25 to 30 students, split between single and divided-double rooms. All four buildings will feature first-floor living and dining areas and kitchens, plus outdoor “spill-out” terraces for socializing. The buildings share a common exterior vocabulary of red brick and stucco, with slate-shingle gabled roofs trimmed in copper.

Keeping in mind the architectural notion that different is good, each building has a unique look, both inside and out. They feature dormers and windows of varying shapes, and floor plans with varying wall colors and trims. The building in the northwest corner will have a third-floor deck with sweeping views of the West Hills. Another will house a café and multi-purpose room that college planners hope will make the area a campus-wide destination for students and faculty.

The open courtyard at the center of the quad, meanwhile, will be crisscrossed by pathways; the landscaping (with nearly 100 tree and shrub species) will be designed to create spaces for casual encounters while simultaneously offering  “layers of privacy.” There will be plenty of places where students can hang out or throw a frisbee, as well as areas where students can enjoy solitude and quiet.

All this—the intimate scale and variable detail—comes at a price. The $23 million projected cost is about average for new student housing nationwide, according to a survey by American School & University magazine of college residence halls erected in 2005. However, when analyzed on a per-student basis, the new buildings appear a bit more pricey, since they will be home to a relatively cozy 125 students spread over four buildings, compared to about 400 students being housed in the typical new residential project at colleges nationwide.