Michael Graves College of Design

Objective: Design a new facility for a burgeoning multi-discipline design program at a small suburban New Jersey university.

Response: This project sought to take advantage of the diverse student body and the multi-disciplinary nature of the program.  This proposal utilizes the different building types that are required for a design school to create a tightly programmed building that promotes cross-disciplinary interaction.

This project seeks to take advantage of the fact that this is a multi-disciplinary school.  A design school is unique in that the diverse program requires a variety of drastically different building types (i.e. A stand alone wood shop would not be the same as a stand alone classroom).  Typically in multi-discipline institutions, each program (Architecture, Industrial Design, Interior Design etc) maintains their own heterogeneous building that accommodates all activities specific to that discipline.  With the future of design being undoubtedly collaborative, this project strives to perpetuate this by arranging this new facility not by discipline, but by building type.  The result is a shift from separate, heterogeneous buildings with a homogeneous discipline, to four homogeneous ‘buildingettes’, occupied by all the disciples.  The four ‘buildingettes’ are; the sloped buildingette (review spaces, classrooms), the ramped buildingette(studios, library), the grid buildingette (offices, classrooms, services), and the plenum buildingette (shops, fabrication, labs).

This creates an incredibly dense, 'fat-free' cluster of program where all the disciplines are in very close proximity to one another.  For example, since all the pin-up areas are of the same building type, they are all adjacent to one another. This means that at any given time, an Architecture review could be taking place beside an Advertising critique.

Because this produces such a dense building that is so specifically programmed, two decompressive axes of consolidated unprogrammed space are introduced.  The first is vertical and features an elaborate stair that extends from the first level to the top of the building.  The stair itself is enormous and features casual hang out spaces on both the oversized treads and landings.  The second axis in horizontal and it divides the entire building into two ‘chunks’.  This creates an entire intermediate floor in the center of the building that is totally free of specified program.

The use of this level would be entirely flexible, operating as a ping pong area in one corner and a relaxed space for gathering in another.  The building is also lifted off the ground in order to create an entirely public first level.  All of the program that can and would act as ‘outreach’ for the rest of the campus is located here.  This is strategically placed in order to combat the all-too-frequent esoterisicm of design schools as they relate to the rest their campuses.

The building it structurally conceived in such a way that strengthens the reading of the massing.  Each of the two volumes that consist of the ‘typical’ floors are held up by four frames of gigantic trusses that each set up their own one-way structural system.  This not only reiterates the concept of the project, but also enables the slabs to take on the sculptural qualities that they require.

Completed: December 2015

Course: Graduate Studio III at the Yale School of Architecture

Critic: Tessa Kelly