Keene State College’s Living and Learning Commons (LLC) residence hall recently won an award for design excellence from the Boston Society of Architects and American Institute of Architects. According to the American Institute of Architects New Hampshire (AIANH)’s website, the LLC’s “hub” was a feature that was favored among the jury who analyzed the design. The social “hub” is at the heart of the building and connects three wings of 30-person communities.

Ethan Platt / Equinox Staff

Ethan Platt / Equinox Staff

The LLC also has three classrooms and a café lounge, which, in KSC’s award submission, is designed as “a touchdown space where faculty and students can continue a discussion after class or students can meet to plan a group project.”

KSC became a client for Perkins + Will of Boston for the architecture and planning of the building. Perkin + Will Project Architect and Associate Stephen Messinger said students will have less disconnect from a class that’s located in their dorm. If students wake up late and have a class halfway across campus, they may not try to make it there. If a classroom is in their dorm, they can roll out of bed and head downstairs, Messinger explained.

When designing the LLC, Messinger said they had five objectives:

1. Provide new first-year housing per campus master plan

2. Provide a gateway to campus for arriving guests, students and families

3. Provide a purpose-built first year living learning experience

4. Strengthen the first-year experience in south campus

5. Provide a sustainable, healthy environment for living and learning.

“How do you promote interaction among students and collaboration? That was, for us, the driving force,” Messinger said. To make sure they hit their objectives, they got input from students, residential life, finance professionals, the KSC president and the design committee.

KSC Associate Professor of Architecture Bartlomiej Sapeta serves as president-elect for AIANH.

In May, Sapeta said a chapter meeting and panel discussion were held with the following objectives:

1. To understand current trends in residential life sector at college campuses, with particular emphasis on learning that extends beyond traditional academic building environment,

2. To learn about the intricacies of the interdisciplinary approaches to coordination of modern residential life buildings

3. To be aware of the fast-paced planning, design, and construction processes influenced by the academic year calendar and other institutional constraints

4. To gain insight into the design process of using the project program to drive a diagrammatic concept and then using that concept to develop massing, organization, structure, and interior design for the building.

Those among the panel discussion included Messinger, Associate Dean of Students and Director of Residential Life Kent Drake-Deese, Engleberth Inc. Project Manager Brad Walker, Construction Clerk of the Works Colin Burdick and Associate Professor/ Director of the Living/ Learning Community Dr. Graham Warder.

In terms of Sapeta’s role with AIANH, Sapeta said every year they run the program for design and get about 50 submissions. Sapeta said there are two broad categories: residential and commercial. The LLC design was submitted and went in front of a jury composed of three architects.

“Based on the criteria that we give them, we give awards. Then there’s a big meeting where we present the awards and all the submissions, and they go around the state and are shown in various locations,” Sapeta explained.

Sapeta said at KSC, they display at the Technology, Design and Safety (TDS) Center and having been doing so the past five years. They want students to see the work put in.

KSC sophomore and mathematics major Gianni DeMasco is one student who was able to see the work put in, as he lived in the LLC last year and said he loved it.

“It was such an extensive community and it was really fun being around kids you were in one or two classes with,” DeMasco said. He also said each dorm has its own personality, but he doesn’t think the LLC differs too much from any of the other dorms on KSC’s campus.

Despite the rooms being “a little small,” which DeMasco said he believes is meant to make students spend more time out of their rooms, he would “definitely recommend” living in the LLC, but only if students want that type of living situation.

“I know some people who don’t want to see people that they go to class with every day,” he said.

In terms of the design, DeMasco said, “It’s a really cool design, it looks really nice and it almost feels like you’re living in a hotel of some sort.”

The BSA Design Awards Gala was held on Jan. 18 at BSA Space in Boston, Massachusetts.

Grace Pecci can be contacted at gpecci@kscequinox.com