reed magazine logospring2007
dorm life, 2007

this new 'old' house

To cite a few examples, Amherst College in Massachusetts opened two new residences in 2005, housing 170 students combined. Closer to home, Willamette University in Salem dedicated a housing project last fall for more than 350. On a far larger scale, the University of Michigan recently unveiled plans to build its first new student residence hall in four decades—for 550 students. With just 125 new slots for students, the Reed facilities come in at a comparatively high cost for new college residence halls, due in part to the large amount of common space and academic program space being included.

“They’re high-end,” Diver says. “I want everything at Reed to be excellent. I wouldn’t skimp on the architecture any more than on the academics.”

Leibman concurs, saying that good architecture can be a powerfully positive influence on behavior. She thinks the added cost of building small houses with lots of communal space is well worth the price. “It’s not so much about keeping up with the Joneses, as making the new space be Reed space” she says. “Having all singles with private bathrooms would be a bad idea. If you put all the money into building luxurious individual rooms, with no social space, you’re discouraging intellectual interaction.”

The plan also points Reed’s future development in a new direction, allowing the college to “plant the flag” on the northwest corner of campus—a swath of fields and open land, including a spring-fed pond, that the college obtained when it purchased and then demolished the defunct Eastmoreland Hospital. The college’s master plan envisions that the area will someday serve as a gateway to campus along SE 28th Avenue and Steele Street, with additional housing and commercial development nearby.

Flowering arranging, German House

Arranging flowers for the German House dinner.


The project has provoked anger among some neighbors, because its footprint covers a former community garden, which was cultivated for three decades by local residents who raised fruits, vegetables, and flowers on the land. Planners explored numerous alternate locations—including the south lawn in front of Eliot Hall—before deciding to build on the current site, which requires that the former garden be bulldozed. The college is currently in negotiations with the city and gardeners to dedicate another, likely smaller, piece of college-owned land for a new community garden.

The ZGF buildings, meanwhile, are designed with sustainability in mind, and will qualify for LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification. The project’s “green” features included landscaping that filters storm water runoff into a natural spring, and ventilation stacks built to resemble chimneys that will cool the buildings naturally, in addition to an array of environmentally sensitive materials such as flooring, window glass, and roof tiles.

ZGF is also working on the new pedestrian and bicycle bridge that will traverse the western end of Reed canyon. The bridge, set to open in fall 2008, will make the walk from the new quad, as well as from college-owned apartments and offices farther afield, safer and shorter. It will also relieve foot traffic across Crystal Springs Creek, where spawning salmon have recently been spotted after being absent for decades.

Some faculty members and students have expressed concern that a new bridge will mar one of the last undisturbed sections of the canyon. “Most of us understand that the primary mission of the college is to be a college, not a nature preserve,” says Leibman. “That said, everyone is concerned about keeping the canyon as pristine a space as possible. The goal of the bridge is to find ways both to get people across campus and to disturb the canyon as little as possible.”

The college considered designs for suspension and simple-span bridges before settling on the latter. Construction of the bridge, expected to cost approximately $1.5 million, is being planned to minimize environmental impact on the canyon below: its piers will sit on opposite edges of the canyon, and its curves will skirt most mature trees in its path.

Scale model of the new residence halls. The quad is open to the south (top of photo) where a line of trees borders Reed canyon.

Scale model of new dorm complex