At the heart of the architecture profession is the belief that spaces shape the way we live. After years of disconnected educational silos in a building that discouraged cooperative innovation, Penn State made a decisive move to invest in a building that would promote appreciation of architecture and landscape architecture for the students who study it and all those who pass by. SALA was conceived as a teaching tool for future architects and landscape architects to learn about design and building technology, particularly concepts of sustainability. It promotes a higher quality of life by creating a place that inspires creative problem-solving as well as appreciation for the resources—both natural and manmade—that shape the built environment.
Architecture students are on a quest for inspiration. They will shape the built environment of tomorrow, but for today, it is their own inner world in need of cultivation. They will spend hours in their studios, laboring over intricate models and complex designs. Without deliberate design, student efforts are hidden from the campus at large, and few of their peers have the opportunity to enjoy the creative and interesting work that emerges from a university architectural studio. Without a building that draws people in and encourages collaboration, the pulse of inspiration is cut off.
The building unites the two departments to create a flexible learning environment that fosters collaboration and shared value through the design of open, interconnected spaces. The building program includes studios for both architecture and landscape architecture departments, facility and administrative offices, a library, computer labs, classrooms, and a woodworking shop, as well as community outreach centers for design and landscape resource management.
The project’s location in a unique campus backwater and footpath provided the opportunity to put the work of the departments on display. Overland preserved the student thoroughfare, drawing them through the building instead of forcing them to detour around it. Along the pathways, they designated the major jury spaces and student displays, creating a gallery experience as students pass through.
It is a beautiful building. It has beautiful workspaces, the students love it, and it’s built around an integrated vision of design education. We shared a sensibility about the importance of a great work space to stimulate creativity and encourage expression.
The construction yard opens up to an amphitheater on the building’s exterior, propelling student work into further communication with the campus. Ample windows make the studio space visible to passers-by so that as students toil into the wee hours of the morning, their passion and drive are on display for their peers to appreciate. “I think that has implications long term to change the value proposition of what architecture means for a larger community,” said Principal in Charge Bob Shemwell.
Sustainability also emerged as a priority for Penn State. The facility integrates numerous sustainable design strategies, adapting to seasonal variations, providing flexibility in spatial configurations, and accommodating technological change.The School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture (SALA) introduced LEED processes onto the campus and extended best practices onto the campus, such as rainwater catchment in an adjacent parking lot and recycled copper on the building façade to integrate sustainable materials into the campus vernacular.
“It is a beautiful building. It has beautiful workspaces, the students love it, and it’s built around an integrated vision of design education. We shared a sensibility about the importance of a great work space to stimulate creativity and encourage expression,” said Amy Glasmeier, a former professor at Penn State.
As the university’s first foray in sustainable design, the 110,200-GSF building also serves as inspiration. For the architecture students within, it is the opportunity to learn in place that models best practices. Daylight and open-format spaces enhance both the learning experience and sustainability. The building is 46 percent more energy efficient and proved to be less expensive to build than the most recent new construction on campus. For the university as a whole, it proved the value of sustainable development, illuminating the way forward for future buildings.
The inviting space has also helped SALA’s recruitment of top talent among both students and faculty. Not only does it provide a state–of-the-art facility for instruction and practice, it has fostered a community of synergy and sharing that appeals to bright minds. Since the completion of the building, both the architecture and landscape architecture schools’ rankings have climbed into the top ten nationwide.
- AASA/AIA/CEFPI Shirley Cooper and Walter Taylor Award 2008
- AIA’s CAE Educational Facility Design Award 2008
- Copper Development Association’s North American Copper in Architecture Award 2008
- TSA Design Honor Award 2007
- Chicago Athenaeum’s American Architecture Award 2007
- AIA Pittsburgh Design Honor Award 2006
- AIA Pittsburgh Green Design Citation 2006
- AIA San Antonio Design Honor Award 2006
- Environmental Design + Construction Magazine Excellence in Design Awards Honorable Mention 2005
- ASLA Pittsburgh President’s Award for Design 2003
- Texas Architect, “Penn State SALA,” September/October 2007
- San Antonio Express News, “Students’ Architecture Awards Share Some Similarities with Pros,” November 2006
- San Antonio Express News, “Architect group hands out Awards,” October 2006
- Texas Architect, “Study in Green,” July/August 2006
- Environmental Design + Construction, “Penn State: Blue and White; and Green,” January 2006
IN ASSOCIATION WITH WTW ARCHITECTS