Our recently completed building at Trinity College, the Crescent Center for the Arts and Neuroscience (CCAN) is a unique project. The client asked us to repurpose a partially completed structure that was originally designed to be a bookstore and café into an academic building.
Midway through construction of the original project, the College identified a greater space need for other key programs – the Neuroscience department, Media and Performing Arts, as well as a new Student Commons. Trinity College formulated a program for this new space, and asked us to study the possibility of housing it in the partially constructed bookstore building. Needless to say, this was an interesting challenge.
The pre-existing conditions yielded a fully complete slab, foundations, steel structure and roof. The shell space set many parameters before our design process began. The other challenge was the tight budget.
Pre-Existing Conditions: Original Bookstore Design
Our design not only needed to provide a logical layout for the designated programs, but also transform the exterior of the building to better signal the academic programs within. The original design for the bookstore had a very traditional, small scale retail aesthetic. Instead of the original palette of clapboard siding and asphalt shingled pitched roofs, we proposed a more modern look with smooth buff brick and zinc cladding. Since the window frames and glazing were already purchased and on site, we worked with a kit of parts and re-arranged them strategically on the façade to respond to the new interior programming.
The building program is arranged with a distinct dividing line along the north-south axis of the plan – with the Neuroscience suite on the east side and Arts and Student Commons on the west. The Student Commons is an open, public lounge and study space organized along the length of the main circulation zone on the west façade of the building. The primary, iconic focal point of the design concept is the Student Art Gallery, which presents itself as a two-story sculptural element on the front corner of the building, located at the juncture of the main entrance and Student Commons space.
The final finishes of the completed building present a vast departure from the original bookstore design, but successfully links itself to the rest of the Trinity College campus, while also fitting within the scale of campus housing, which exists along this edge of campus. The building now has its own identity. Though this project presented interesting challenges at the outset, we found we were able to design a space within the constraints that is both highly functional and uniquely memorable.