An Addition to the Virginia Tech School of Architecture

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Virginia Tech


This project is an addition to Cowgill Hall, the building that houses the College of Architecture on the Virginia Tech campus. Cowgill Hall is located on the north edge of campus, on a direct northern axis with the centerline of the campus drill field, which is the heart and center of the Va Tech Blacksburg campus. Cowgill Hall is a 4 story concrete and glass structure, built in 1969, with a dry moat-like hardscape on three sides around it and a wide bridge connecting the building at the second level to the campus via a large plaza.

My solution was to use the bridge as the way to connect an addition to the existing Cowgill Hall building. By extending the bridge the axis is also extended, and the addition can become a terminus to the axis. I wanted the addition itself to promote and enhance the Va Tech School of Architecture methodology of design education, which is that of constructive exploration and student collaboration. Being able to observe the design process of other students seems to be fundamental to design education. Therefore, I sought to provide a design that would enhance the student's experience of a daily architectural education. The student experiences the building through a variety of pathways vertically through it, that path being a progression also of daylight to darkness, openness to closed, public to private. The path begins at the plaza, where the bridge takes the student from the campus into Cowgill Hall. My design extends the path out the other side of the building, creating another bridge. The addition is a semicircular four story form with a radial pattern of stair towers, with a slight skew and offset which serves to enhances a tension between the original Cowgill Hall building and the addition and thus become a dynamic large-occupancy gathering space and open lecture hall.

The building structure is concrete and waffle slab. The exterior is two layers; the outer one comprised of stone and concrete, the inner one comprised of glass and steel. The building in plan is surrounded by ramps rising up and to the east, and the outer layer of the exterior supports a series of stacked and parallel ramps, which serves as one method of navigating the building vertically; one path. Always above the ramp is the inner layer, which consists of a slim-profile steel curtainwall glazing system. As the ramp moves towards ground level, the stone and concrete cladding peel away and the curtainwall expands, allowing more daylight and views in the desirable direction towards the mountains.

The stone cladding is topped by precast concrete panels, the stone rising to the underside of the highest perimeter ramp on the building. which peels away as the building rises from the ground. The cladding consists of precast concrete and Virginia Bluestone, which is the stone most buildings on campus are built with. The bluestone is rough cut and heavy, and anchors the building to the site. Precast concrete tops the bluestone, aligning with the ramp, and easily allowing punched-openings to align squarely with the slope of the interior ramp system. The outer layer being heavy masonry grounds the building while giving it the mass and distinction that the surrounding Virginia Tech campus requires.

The project's vertical structure is comprised of radial concrete walls which are in pairs. They support the waffle slab floor and roof structure, while housing the stairs. Movement inside the building vertically may be accomplished through any one of these radially located stair towers, which differ in their degree of solidity. Depending on the mood of the student or the educator, the path vertically can be chosen by the personal desire to be seen or to see others. One can sneak quietly or strut through the building openly. One can look through the stair walls to the student desks below and observe while being observed, or observe discreetly and without being intrusive. The path through the building is experiential, while the progression of spaces in the building provide unique and appropriate arenas for private introspection, collaboration and group learning.

The spaces in tension create gathering spaces for education and reflection. The whole promote movement, observation and interaction.



Form, Path, Tension, Structure, Daylighting