Design fulfils client's mission through raising grades, increasing retention and teaching tolerance
The University is a private, Catholic-inspired institution with a mission to develop extraordinary citizens. In 2002, the university made a strategic decision to transform itself from a commuter to a residential campus.
University trustees and administrators researched and visited premier institutions, such as Notre Dame, Loyola, Yale and Harvard, which have an identity of linking the residential experience to the academic experience. The University synthesized its research with institutional aspirations, creating a strategic framework for student life, 'Modelo Formitivo', for educating the 'whole' student.
The University engaged in an invited design competition, including the development of the space programme and conceptual design, to provide a vision for the new residential college. The firm presenting this project won the competition and was subsequently selected for the residential college.
The University’s 2003 campus master plan identified expansion of the academic core, but it did not address incorporation of on-campus residents or the impact of 24-hour student life. In fact, the university identified a perimeter zone for the proposed residential college that was perceptually and physically distanced from primary circulation patterns and the campus core.
The design proposal embraced the opportunity to use the residential college and dining to create a vibrant campus community and heal an unwelcoming edge of the campus. It also embraced 360-degree views of the Sierra Madre Mountains.
Based on the desired academic and social outcomes, the university developed a student life and a facility programme for on-campus living. A key objective was to translate the classic components of a residential college into the area's unique climate and culture. Key components include: housing for 450 students in two distinct communities with central community spaces; community building to include common spaces and community support spaces; residences for two faculties and one director with private entrances as well as community connections; secure interior and exterior space; recreation area; chapel, and exterior civic space.
The design solution included the intentional development of community spaces. The Centro de Communidad welcomes residents as they enter or leave the community through an open-air drum that serves as a civic threshold between the campus and the residence. In contrast to this activity space, the chapel is an enclosed drum at the opposite end of the site, providing contemplative space as well as a place for religious services.
The new residential college emerges from a hierarchy of internal and external spaces. The Individual Student space is defined with intimate garden spaces off the primary green space. The Residential Community is defined by residential courtyards, providing private green space, open-air study space and views of the Sierra Madre mountains. The College Community is defined by a central recreation and ceremonial space to serve the entire residential college and the broader campus community on special occasions.
Landscape, colour, light and social connections provide the linkages as a student moves daily from the intimacy of their room, courtyard and the community spaces that link each student with their neighbours, the members of their college, and then to the broader campus.
Building colours and landscape take their cues and complement the material palette and lush landscape of the core campus. A significant driving force in the success of the design was affordability, which ultimately was achieved through the simplicity and efficiency of the buildings. The project design uses a series of regular building blocks engineered to deliver value in spatial quality, quantity and in overall construction economy.
The university’s stated desire to respond to the regional climate is realised through the development of courtyards and outdoor rooms. Civic space is nearly doubled through the deliberate development of secure exterior social spaces. The budget was $90 USD per sq ft, roughly half of what was budgeted for US collegiate residence halls at the time. The project cost $8.7 million when it opened in September 2006.
Since the project's opening, the project has housed 2,000 students. The academic average of the community’s residents is two percentage points higher than of the out-of-town students who do not live on campus. The items that got the highest score on student self-assessments, administered after living in Colegio for at least one year, are related to community life: tolerance, respect, cooperation, conflict resolution and formation of academic support networks.
Another indicator of success is that the retention index of the residents is three percentage points higher than for the students who do not live on campus. The impact of having faculty-in-residence has been the creation of a family atmosphere and all the activities related to the Modelo Formitivo that they organise. The chapel and community centre are in constant use.
The client says: "The feedback we get from students and parents is very positive. We think the physical layout of Residencias UDEM has helped us achieve the objectives of our formative model: personal growth, community life and academic success. Our students have learned to tolerate and respect diversity and build strong friendships."