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School Construction 2006

August 31, 2006

Gateway opens up a closed-off campus

  • New building plan strengthens a college’s connection to its landscape
    Schacht Aslani Architects



    Projects for academic institutions typically involve campus planning issues and establishing relationships with an existing physical context. But when the project represents a new era of development on a campus that has not changed since it was constructed in the 1960s, the opportunities and challenges exceed the norm.

    The design for two new buildings at Peninsula College in Port Angeles takes advantage of a remarkable site in the shadow of the Olympic Mountains and sets the stage for the long-range development of the campus. It will create a gateway to the college that invites people to participate in the life of its academic community.

    Unique site unrecognized

    Peninsula College sits at the edge of a verdant rainforest on a hill overlooking the city. Snow-capped Hurricane Ridge rises in the background to the south. The luminous waters of the Strait of Juan de Fuca shimmer in the distance to the north.

    The original campus design consists of one-story, wood-frame buildings clad in brick and cedar with exterior walkways and low-pitched roofs. The campus plan is inwardly focused and does not recognize the unique qualities of the site.

    Rendering by Schacht Aslani Architects
    The entrance to Peninsula College in Port Angeles will have a pair of contemporary buildings designed to relate to the campus and its natural surroundings. Offices built atop the concrete bridge will be removed to enable views of the Olympics.

    There is little sense of entry to the college other than a low-slung, arcaded concrete bridge with faculty offices on top that connects the existing library to a small complex of administrative buildings. Vegetation and buildings block views from the parking lot into the campus and from open spaces on campus out towards the view.

    The new Library Media Center and Faculty Administration Building, designed by Schacht Aslani Architects, are part of a long-range vision for the growth of the college. Together with the new Science and Technology Building, designed by LMN Architects, and the new Business and Humanities Center, a Schacht Aslani project, the college is expanding to provide the region much-needed educational and workforce training opportunities.

    The Library Media Center and Faculty Administration Building will take the place of the existing library and a portion of the existing administration complex on either side of the concrete bridge. Offices on the bridge will be demolished, opening the college’s central square to views of the Strait of Juan de Fuca and framing a dramatic entry sequence to the college with views of the Olympics beyond.

    The distinct arches of the bridge, which are part of the college’s logo, will be preserved as a belvedere.

    A nighttime beacon

    The new buildings are designed in a contemporary language that serves their program, takes advantage of their site and relates to the scale of the existing campus.

    The one-story, 25,000-square-foot library has a strong geometry that grows out of the campus space and buildings around it. The building is organized around a 21-foot-high triangular atrium space that serves as a reading room and orients users to all of the spaces in the building. The prow of the atrium looks out over the campus entry towards the view of the water.

    The flat roof over the atrium projects out over the main volume, creating a sense of shelter while relating to roof overhangs on existing buildings. At the west end of the building, on the edge of the central square, the roof forms a large porch that shelters the main entry to the building.

    The glazed volume of the atrium brings in generous amounts of light during the day and allows the library to glow like a beacon at night. Horizontal wood panels in the window wall at the front porch give the building a material richness that relates to the cedar siding of the existing buildings as they filter the west light.

    The library’s functional areas are arranged in brick-clad blocks along the west and north sides of the triangular atrium. Support spaces, offices, computer classrooms, stacks and study rooms are contained in these lower volumes. The atrium breaks through the brick blocks at their intersection, creating a cantilevered bay window that contains the periodical reading area and identifies a secondary entrance to campus from the student parking lot.

    Sustainable features

    The two-story, 7,500-square-foot Faculty Administration Building is designed in a related design language, combining brick and wood paneling. The college’s administrative offices are on the ground floor. Faculty offices are on the upper floor. Two-story window walls at the north and east facades relate to the transparency of the glazed library atrium across the plaza.

    Sustainable features include the heating and cooling, which are provided by geothermal well fields that supply an underfloor air-distribution system. Daylighting reduces the need for electrical lighting. Rain gardens accept runoff from roof surfaces and create lush planting areas that line the pedestrian routes around the building.

    Sense of connection

    Peninsula College’s new Library Media Center and Faculty Administration Building create a gateway to the campus.

    Framing views of mountains and water, they create a new sense of access to the college. Designed in relation to the existing buildings with materials and systems that will last for generations, they set the course for future development on campus.

    The buildings increase the sense of connection between the college, its community and its landscape.

    Walter Schacht is a founding principal of Schacht Aslani Architects and is the current president of AIA Seattle. Jenn Erickson is the firm’s marketing coordinator.

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