Changing architectural expressions shape campus design in more ways than one.

As the dog days of summer wind down, we’re reminded of the role that campus architecture plays in the daily lives of students and faculty filing back into classrooms. And in the particular case of colleges and universities, architects and planners have the added challenge of updating outdated facilities while still retaining the established historic look and feel of a campus. They must “strive to meld a sense of the past with current needs, all the while incorporating a budget-conscious flexibility into designs that will accommodate as-yet-unknown needs,” reports Commercial Building Products. The publication spoke with multiple architects about such concerns. Ignacio Reyes, vice president, Leo A Daly Architects, notes a common conundrum of campus design:

“There are those that want to have an established vocabulary on campus and be respectful of that vocabulary so that all buildings look or feel the same. There are others that say that you should honor the old by creating something that contrasts and has a brand-new contemporary look to it, that demonstrates it is not part of the history but part of the future,” says Reyes.

To bridge the gap between history and contemporary, campus architects are seeking integration rather than replication. The ultimate goal is to weave together new and existing design that nods to a campus of historic, existing structures. (For a recent example, learn how Michigan Tech paid homage to heritage in our project profile). And all architects agreed that new should never equate to boring. Flat, subdued and utilitarian modes of design were frowned upon by the architects interviewed. That’s not to say that modern technology needn’t be applied. “There is incredible beauty of function in today’s design, and it can be seen in the exterior shells that manage solar heat gain and light and interface with the natural environment. It applies to interiors where energy, air quality and space are designed to create comfort that is healthy, yet dynamic in nature,” says David Zeitlin, national sales manager, Cambridge Architectural, Cambridge, MD.

More architects sound off on this topic at Commercial Building Products.