Architect Includes Geothermal Wells, Walking Bridge in Commons Design

By Purnell T. Cropper | April 23, 2010

Arcadia University new University Commons was designed by Kliment Halsband Architects, the New York firm known for its innovative work that also designed Landman Library. The project includes geothermal wells for heating and cooling as well as a walking bridge linking the Commons to Grey Towers Castle.

The project will add 50,000 square feet to the front of the Kuch Center Recreation and Athletic Center. Designed to be a center for student life, the University Commons will have three floors of spaces—all with views of the campus green—for dining, student clubs and activities, meetings and conferences, art exhibits, and fitness.

Providing a new face and extension to the athletics center, the University Commons completes the grouping of buildings on the campus green, forming a link between historic Grey Towers Castle and Landman Library, whose new wing was also designed by Kliment Halsband Architects. Ninety-six geothermal wells under the green will provide the heating and cooling for the new building, and power the new cooling system for the gymnasium.

“The new University Commons is designed to be a living room for the campus, a gathering place, a dynamic, transparent, and welcoming space that facilitates informal interaction and provides a variety of experiences,” says Frances Halsband FAIA. “The project honors the objectives of Arcadia’s Campus Master Plan by adding and infilling an existing building, creating a walking bridge to connect the many levels of the site, and designing a sustainable building that looks to the future.”

Changing from the dark grey native schist of Grey Towers Castle to lighter terra cotta and glass that relates to the materials of Landman Library, the long front facade of the Commons defines the eastern edge of the campus green. The distinctive curving silhouette of the roof extends the language of the curved façade of the Library and the curving forms of the Castle, as well as defining the interior spaces by separating commons rooms and public spaces facing east to the green from private and service spaces to the west. Clerestory windows along the west face of the wall bring daylight into the second floor spaces. A bridge linking Grey Towers Castle to the Commons and a balcony facing the green provide connections to the surrounding academic buildings and landscapes.

The Commons includes meeting rooms, lounges, and multipurpose spaces to accommodate groups of varying sizes. A large meeting room on the lower level is a place for assemblies of 500 people, banquets, and dances. A group of large meeting spaces on the upper level accommodates student activities, trustees meetings, and can also function as a conference center. Numerous smaller spaces, enclosed and open lounges, the game room, and the fireplace lounge provide a variety of opportunities for informal group meetings and relaxing.

The student activities area on the second floor is a space for club meetings and student organizations, with University staff offices nearby. A gallery for student and faculty work adjoins the main entrance and building lobby. A café and a separate espresso bar provide other opportunities to gather in the building.

The existing athletics and fitness facilities are being expanded to include new fitness and aerobics rooms.

Founded in New York City in 1972, Kliment Halsband Architects is known for its innovative work in architecture, master planning, historic preservation, and adaptive reuse for educational, cultural, civic, government, and private clients. The work of the firm has been recognized with over 50 awards for design excellence, including the National AIA Firm Award and the Medal of Honor from the New York Chapter AIA, each of which is the highest honor given annually for consistently distinguished architecture. The firm has completed numerous projects for educational clients, designing new buildings and transforming existing ones to provide state-of-the art learning environments. The Arcadia University Commons is the firm’s second commission at Arcadia. The first was the design of a new wing for Landman Library, selected as the winning entry of an invited competition in 2000. Among the other colleges and universities at which the firm has completed projects are: Brown University, Columbia University, Dartmouth College, Harvard University, Johns Hopkins University, New York University, The Rockefeller University, Vassar College, and Yale University.