The newest residence hall on campus, the Living and Learning Commons (LLC), has become an architectural achievement not only to the campus community, but also outside of Keene. The N.H. chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIANH) recently awarded the LLC with an “Excellence in Architecture Design” honor award.
Designed by international firm Perkins+Will Global, the on-campus building was one of four other buildings to win the professional association’s award this year. Construction began in May of 2015 and was open for students this fall, including a level of classrooms, as well as a dormitory. The firm was chosen by a committee mixed with students and faculty.
KSC junior and architecture major Erin Conti stated she was approached by her advisor to become involved with the committee during her first year at KSC.
“It was really exciting to be a part of the process of choosing which firm would be selected to work on the project,” Conti stated. “I attended meetings throughout my [first year] and I got to give my opinion on all aspects of the building, from the layout down to the colors and materials used for the interior. At the beginning of my sophomore year after construction had begun, I got to go down to Boston and help pick out furniture to be brought to campus and show to other students to make final choices.”
Conti stated that it was an enlightening experience considering she was involved with this at the very start of her degree.
“It really helped me see the whole process all from a client’s perspective,” Conti stated. “It was really eye-opening, especially being that it was my [first year] and I had just been starting out in architecture. I learned just how much goes into every single detail and how much can change throughout the design process.”
While there were benefits for student architects, there were also other majors that found applicable skills through being on this committee to help towards their varying career goals.
KSC alumna and art major Natasha Young was also amongst the committee, and spent her last two years on campus as a Resident Assistant (RA). Young stated that her time involved with Residential Life allowed her to realize it was something she wanted to turn into a career.
“[Associate Dean of Student and Director of Residential Life] Kent Drake-Deese knew I wanted to work in Residence Life professionally and thought this would be a good opportunity to see a different side of things,” Young stated.
While Conti used this experience to focus on the mechanics of the building, Young stated she was most concerned with the livability for students.
“Being a part of this process really helped me see how we consider our residential spaces on campus in terms of inclusion and accessibility. A lot of buildings still have stairs or entrances where someone who has a physical disability cannot physically access the building or certain areas of the building, so when we were designing the LLC and talking about what kind of amenities would go into it, I definitely became more conscious of how accessible those spaces were,” Young stated.
Along with the accessibility of the LLC, Young stated she fought for gender inclusive bathrooms on each floor.
“One thing myself and a couple other committee members strongly advocated for in the building was having a gender inclusive restroom on each floor,” Young stated. “We also wanted various spaces that allowed for smaller groups in studying or larger community building areas. Since this took place over my second and third years as an RA, I heard a lot of feedback from my students in particular in wanting more study spaces or just spaces that were not behind a closed door. I think the committee really took that into consideration with the designs to make a lot more open and welcoming spaces.”
Both Conti and Young stated they feel accomplished from this experience and that hearing about the award was a privilege.
“It was really cool to hear that it [the LLC] won an award and know that I had a part in the design of this res[idence] hall before it even existed,” Conti stated. “I was able to give input on this amazing building that changed our campus and I feel like in a way, I made a mark on this campus. I will always see it and know that I was there and saw it all the way through.”
Resident Director of the LLC Jeffrey Sawyer could not comment before deadline. Sawyer stated it was because “Media requests need to be approved through the Director of Residential Life before comment.”
Olivia Belanger can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org