Strategically located at the core of the campus, Salisbury University's new Academic Commons significantly transforms how teaching and learning occurs on campus. Common ground for all of the university's academic disciplines, the building fully supports all modes of study and learning, from individual contemplative study to collaborative, technology-rich group engagement. The program elements are arrayed around a four-story learning commons with each floor dedicated to a specific type of learning. The ground floor is devoted to staff-supported collaboration. The second floor contains program elements focused on teaching and learning skills, the third floor is dedicated to individual reflective learning, and the fourth floor, which contains the special collections/research center and assembly space, facilitates engagement with original sources and supports public dialogue.
An early design goal after the development of the 226,000-square-foot program was to organize the building on only four floors to create diverse, program-rich floor plates connected by an open central commons. The interior experience is one of comfort and connection, which would have been compromised if the program was spread across additional floors. While the large floor plates enable interior connectivity and new program adjacencies, given the tight site they create essentially one large volume. One of the key design questions was “how can we successfully mediate the campus’s Georgian context with more contemporary forms of expression, while simultaneously minimizing its large scale and celebrating its monumentality?” An interplay of vertical elements—including window proportions, sun screens, arcades, and the carillon tower—and simple, classic proportions, come together to create an academic center in the heart of campus that is both forward-looking and rooted in the contextual heritage of the campus. The building is at once energetic and restrained, both welcoming and monumental, successfully resolving a series of complex, interconnected design challenges.
Credits: - Ayers Saint Gross - Associate Architect - Sasaki - Design Principal - Lan Ying Ip - Sasaki - Principal in Charge - Bryan Irwin - Gilbane - General Contractors