| Aerial Photo
Although in most residences each room is usually identical, this is
not the ideal situation. There are some basics that McGill University’s
University Planning Office requires each room to have:
-approximately 9’ x 12’ and furnished
-a cafeteria should be provided in or near the building
-a communal kitchen is required on each floor
-phone, computer, and cable TV connection
-an individual thermostat
-10 sq. ft. of storage space
The arrangement of clusters of rooms varies from rooms opening onto
a straight corridor, such as in Oxford and many other universities to rooms
surrounding a central area such as Louis Kahn’s Erdman Hall Dormitories
at Bryn Mawr College near Philadelphia.
An important consideration is the quality of life for the residents.
The residence should create a dynamic social environment emphasizing the
following: interpersonal relations, private life, and feeling a sense of
belonging to the community. In some residences the only local common
areas are the toilets, this type of planning is detrimental to socializing.
Different types of small spaces should be provided for relaxation and socializing.
Large corridors and open staircases as well as large meeting spaces near
major corridors which are always accessible create spaces to perform a wide
variety of activities.
|The Evolution of the Communal Outdoor
Space- Creating a sense of Community
The earliest medieval colleges at Cambridge and Oxford Universities
were a square arrangement of connected buildings, enclosing a court or
lawn space in the middle. This design type, termed the quadrangle arrangement,
was thought to have derived from previous castle design.1 A residential two-storey
block of housing would form part of this quadrangle college design. Thus,
master and student lived and worked together in very close quarters, around
a communal outdoor space.
For centuries to come, the quadrangle arrangement was the universally
employed planning design for new colleges at both Cambridge and Oxford.
A change in architectural design tastes wasn’t even a deterrent in the adoption
of the medieval courtyard space at the centre of these newly formed colleges.
An example of this phenomena, can be seen with Christopher Wren’s classically
designed library of 1676-90, positioned to close the previously open Neville’s
Court at Trinity College in Cambridge.
University of Virginia’s ‘academic village’ in Charlottesville, Virginia,
built between 1817and 1826, broke from the dominant quadrangle college mold.2
The academic village, designed by Thomas Jefferson, has at its centre the
famous Rotunda building and lawn space in the front, flanked on both sides
by connected academic buildings. However, the professor’s accommodations,
positioned above their classrooms, and student dorms where still in relatively
close proximity, and, again, set against a peaceful and largely enclosed
Student residences, in contemporary times, have naturally moved from
the main academic centre of many North American universities due to the
modern issues of an increased student body and a shortage of available campus
space. However, the shared communal court space continues to be used in
student resident design, shaped far more loosely than its quadrangle predecessor.
Our own university is a good example of this natural development. McGill’s
student residence area sits at the very top of University St., quite separate
from the main green space of the lower campus. These residences share their
own communal court spaces: the 1960’s high rise buildings encircle an area
with the dining hall positioned at its centre and Douglas Hall, the 1930’s
stone edifice, wraps around a quiet green space.
Even more recently built university residences continue to employ central
outdoor courts in their design schemes. An example is the newly constructed
Mayer Residence at Tulane University, located in New Orleans. In this design,
a largely L-shaped building encircles an oval-shaped courtyard.
1) Micheal Grant, Cambridge ( Oxford, 1969), p.48
2) James D. Kornwolf, “So Good a Design”: The Colonial
Campus of the College of William and Mary ( Williamsburg,Virginia, 1989),
Since the residences are the only part of the program where people will
actually be living, considerations for sunlight and ventilation are especially
important. Each orientation on this site has special implications for
a student residence. The north direction will give no direct sunlight,
while providing rooms with south facing windows will allow the maximum amount
of sunlight. The west side will provide late afternoon light, but this
will not be advantageous as only April and September offer any considerable
period of daylight in the evening. An example of eastern facing windows
is in Glenn Murcutt’s Arthur & Yvonne Boyd Education Centre in Riversdale,
NSW, Australia, where the windows are oriented in that direction in order
allow morning sunlight.
As this site is almost 45 degrees from the cardinal points, the ideal
orientation of the bedroom windows would be southeast. As there may
be problems concerning density, some solutions to consider would be Rem Koolhaas’
Nexus Housing in Fukuoka, Japan and MVRDV’s WoZoCo Housing for the
elderly in Amsterdam. The Nexus Housing allows light into every unit
by using large south facing skylights. WoZoCo example creates the
required density while limiting the footprint and allowing light into all
units from either south, east or west.
|The Issue of View and its Effect on
the Shape and Orientation of the Student Residence
The issue of positioning a housing development so that views from the
site can be best taken advantage of has always been of great concern in the
architect’s design. However, certain residential buildings have taken their
overall form from the architect’s desire to give each and every tenant an
equally engaging and desirable view. No where is this desire better represented
in constructed form than at the Baker Dormitory at M.I.T., designed by
Alvar Aalto, in the Baker Dormitory design, positioned almost all of
the student rooms facing out onto the Charles River and a southern exposure.
Futhurmore, Aalto gave the overall plan of the dormitory a curvilinear form.
Malcolm Quantrill explains in his book, Alvar Aalto: A Critical Study, with
this curvilinear plan, “the occupants of the study-bedrooms were given a
wide variety of views across the river frontage.”
Recently built buildings continue to be designed around the central theme
of giving each and every tenant a desirable view. A good contemporary example
is a condominium complex in Panama, built in 1996. Ignoring the rigid street
lines below, the architect Edwin Brown positioned the towers, housing the
apartments, to face directly out to the ocean.
One of the main factors of ecological design in a temperate climate is
to regulate the interior temperature by using as little non-renewable energy
as possible. One of the ways to achieve this is by using a heavy
heat absorbing building material such as concrete on the north side of
the building, with a hot house on the south façade. Other
elements that will help create a sustainable design are: solar collectors,
composting, a reed bed waste-water treatment system, windmills and solar
panels, and thick insulation. If these elements are visible in the
design they will help educate the user about the use of sustainable design
and it will make the users have a responsibility for their actions.
|The Issue of Experimentation in the
In the November 2001 issue of the Canadian Architect, George Thomas Kapelos
writes a critic of the recently constructed and highly controversial Graduate
House at the University of Toronto, which was designed, in partnership,
by Morphosis and Teeple Architects.
In the article, Mr. Kapelos grapples with the role of a university institution
as a place for experimentation. As the writer infatiguely states: “Must
the scholarship of architecture be set apart from other disciplines? Surely
one of the responsibilities of the university is to provoke and challenge.
Could Graduate House not be viewed in this context?”
Mr. Kapelos stands to defend Thom Mayne and Stephen Teeple’s design,
which is said to be expressing the conflicting, confusing nature of contemporary
life. However, at the same time, the writer appears to appreciate concerns
from the community that the imposing and ‘aggressive’ edifice is in many
ways a ‘problematic building’.
A great deal of expense went into the exterior’s elaborate frame and
skin, along with a most controversial projecting cornice which cantilevers
out onto Harbord Street. As Mr. Kapelois continues to explain, with such
a large amount of the limited budget used for these exterior elements it’s
possible the interior, largely formed of bare concrete and quite drab in
nature, suffered as a result.
|Issues to Consider for the Present
The following should be viewed as suggestions and not ‘hard and fast’
1) From the reservoir’s vantage point, tremendous views
of downtown Montreal and, in the very opposite direction, the mountain
can be obtained and should be considered when situating the residential
complex on this terrain. Also, the design, overall shape and height could
be developed around a desire to give the majority of the residential units
an appealing and engaging view of the city or mountain.
2) After learning about the very close historical ties
between the outdoor court space and collegial residences, one could very
easily argue for the development of the residence complex around a courtyard
space. At the same time, one could also view the entire reservoir as an
enclosed green space with the residence, art and sciences complexes framing
3) The depth of the building should be narrow enough
to allow each user to have control over passive ventilation. One
room and a corridor or one room and a corridor and a courtyard is ideal.
The rooms should face the southeast direction, and a hot house should be
located along this façade. The northwest façade should
consist of a solid wall built out of a heavy material.
Broto, Carles. Architectural Design: Multiunit Housing. Barcelona: Links
Grant, Micheal. Cambridge. Oxford: The Alden Press., 1969
“Green Building: Eco-residence.” Canadian Architect, January 1999, pp.
Klien, Jack. Habitat de l’Etudiant: Etude sur le logement des edudiants.
Ottawa: Association des Colleges du Canada., 1969.
Kornwolf, James D. “So Good a Design”: The Colonial Campus of the College
of William and Mary. Williamsburg, Virginia: Joseph and Margaret Muscarelle
Museum of Art.,1989.
“Learning Experience: U. of T. Graduate House.” Canadian Architect,
November 2001, pp.24-28.
Pearson, David Peterson. Alvar Aalto and the International Style. New
York: The Whitney Lidrary of Design., 1978
Quantrill, Malcolm. Alvar Aalto: A Critical Study. London: Martin Secker
& Warburg Ltd., 1983.
“Rem Koolhaas Block.” Japan Architect, Winter 1991, pp.104-115.
Romer, Henz and al. Louis I. Kahn - Complete Works 1938-74. Boulder,
Colorado: Westview Press., 1975.
Smith, G. E. Kidder. Source Book of American Architecture. Princeton,
N.J.: Princeton University Press.,1996.
“The Mayer Residences, Tulane University, New Orleans.” Architectural
Record, August 2000, pp.146-148.