New spaces for learning

Friday 16 Nov 2012

University of Connecticut expansion features handmade copper facades

At the end of last month Leers Weinzapfel Associates announced the completion of their newest design, Oak Hall, at the University of Connecticut. The building is the second of two copper-faced and brick classroom buildings on the campus.

Its earlier twin Laurel Hall was opened in the fall of 2011. Together they are the first classroom buildings on the campus which have been designed to LEED Gold standards and have begun to shape a sustainable future for the University.  

Oak Hall, named for the state tree, has become the new home for the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences' linguistics, modern and classical languages, economics, and journalism departments which were all previously housed in two other buildings. Both structures are located at the campus crossroads and have helped strengthen this space by creating a fresh exterior civic space which lecturers and students alike are able to use.

The architects have featured copper façades in both designs which is their new signature interpretation of brick which has previously been the standard material used for modern college campuses. The copper is hand-crafted so it responds to the brick scale of surrounding buildings.

The current public education challenge of creating large, flexible learning spaces for growing student bodies is addressed by both structures. Oak Hall has a linear layout which accommodates the faculty's departments on the three upper floors, with a large lecture hall and classrooms primarily located at ground level.

The form is created from two L-shaped brick volumes which are intersected by a large connector on the three upper departmental floors. As a result the office spaces are maximized whilst two copper-lined, interconnected courtyards are created.

"It is rare to be able to design two buildings at the same time that so importantly shape the center of a campus," says firm Principal Jane Weinzapfel. "These buildings do just that."

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