Goucher's `state-of-the-art' dorm

ARCHITECTURE

$19 million residence at college in Towson is designed to last

August 22, 2005|By Edward Gunts | Edward Gunts,SUN ARCHITECTURE CRITIC

When Goucher College moved from Baltimore to Towson more than 50 years ago, its first buildings were clad in a distinctive brown fieldstone quarried in Butler -- a way of providing visual unity for a fledgling campus.

The same "Butler stone" can be found on the latest building to be completed at Goucher, a $19 million, 194-bed residence hall that opens this month.

Goucher might have spent less for a building with cheaper materials, but it wouldn't have been as compatible with its surroundings or as durable, said college President Sanford J. Ungar.

"We could have built a residence hall for 194 for $14 million or $15 million, but we wanted one that fits onto campus," Ungar said during a recent tour.

For the lower amount, "we would have had a building that lasts for 10 to 15 years, but this one is permanent," he added. "No one will have to think about doing anything with this building for 40 to 50 years."

The use of Butler stone is just one of many ways Goucher and its architect, Hillier Architecture of Philadelphia, designed the building to last. They made interior walls thicker and more soundproof than in most new residence halls. Ceilings are higher. Heating and air-conditioning equipment was chosen to be as quiet as possible.

The three-story building has a contemporary look and layout that reflect fresh thinking about student housing. One might call the look "Goucher Modern."

As part of the design, the college has introduced new living arrangements for students -- four-student suites that consist of four private bedrooms in a row, plus separate living spaces and kitchens. There are also suites with two bedrooms that each house two students.

Each suite in the T-shaped building will be all-female or all-male, but male and female suites will occupy the same floor. Every room is wired for computer use.

Besides the student suites, the building contains two apartments for faculty members, a resident manager's apartment and a variety of common spaces. There is also a classroom that can double as study or meeting space.

Karl Pettit was Hillier's principal in charge. Nicholas Garrison led the design team, which included Robert Flaynik, Jose Atienza and Sergio Coscia. Whiting-Turner Contracting Co. was the contractor.

Garrison said the residence hall's design was inspired by older Goucher buildings, with their hipped roofs and deep overhangs. He said the campus is a mixture of a "Prairie School aesthetic" reminiscent of the work of Frank Lloyd Wright and "mid-Atlantic common sense."

"We wanted the building to feel like it was part of the campus but was different a little bit, too," he said. "It's very well built."

Funded with a bond issue that will be repaid by student housing fees, the residence hall is the largest building constructed on the Goucher campus since Ungar became president four years ago.

It was built to address the growing demand for on-campus housing and to eliminate the need for the college to rent apartments for students off-campus. "For a residential liberal arts college, you need to have as many students living on campus as you can," Ungar says.

Like many private colleges, Goucher has seen enrollment rise steadily in recent years. This fall it's expecting its highest enrollment ever -- 1,365 undergraduate students, up from 1,221 four years ago. Of that figure, 1,103 undergraduates will live on campus.

"I feel very proud of the way this turned out," Ungar said. "I don't think it's irresponsibly luxurious. We've provided state-of-the-art housing in a beautiful natural setting that we've preserved. I think it's going to be very appealing."

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