The school on the hill...

26 Feb 2010

New centre brings visible priority to International Studies on UNC Chapel Hill Campus

Completed in Spring 2007, this programme consolidated facilities for Study Abroad, International Student Center, academic programs, and faculty research. The centre is set on a high ridge and steep slope overlooking the centre of campus at the boundary between campus and community, which was previously a parking lot.

The design challenge was to fulfill a university wide goal to give visible priority to the importance of international studies on campus, and gather previously dispersed programs under one roof. The concept is a building wrapped around three sides of an interior Commons and open on the fourth side to a terrace and an existing grove of oak mature trees. It is a distinctly modern counterpart to its largely neo-classical neighbors. Its openness and anon-traditional form and detailing express the international reach of its programs and orientation to the future. The low horizontal profile of the building follows the land and negotiates the scale between large and small-scale adjacent structures. A two-story band of offices, seminars, and meeting rooms floats above a glazed ground floor that flows into the surrounding landscape. A penthouse story houses visiting scholars. At the heart of the building is the Commons – a three story space for events, gatherings, and meeting – opening on one side to a broad outdoor terrace. The Commons is marked on the exterior by a window wall shielded by a series of sculptural sunshades.

An important goal of the university was to achieve the highest level of sustainability in the building as a demonstration of global priorities. Energy efficiency shaped massing and conception of the building envelope in this hot southerly climate. The long east, west, and shorter south walls are clad in brick with protected openings. On the north faces, not to expose heat gain, a full glass window wall opens the building to the campus and green roof garden. Site and building water management are fundamental to the design concept. On-site water retention and limited interior water use constitute important sustainable design features.

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