Text description provided by the architects. All housing, but student housing especially, benefits from a network of figural and easy to use spaces and circulation to make a sense of place and connection. The site redesign captured the opportunity created by emergency vehicle access to make a “clearing” with a clearly articulated esplanade connecting this site to the larger campus. The new commons straddles this esplanade with gathering spaces. Acknowledging the difficult soil condition, the commons cantilevers more than 30’ over this poor soil making indoor spaces above and outdoor spaces below. The newly reconfigured site now emphasizes community through a multitude of areas that provide chance encounters which are so important to student life.
SITE CONDITIONS: The 2.8 acre site sits in the north western corner of the UCLA campus along De Neve Drive. The eastern third of the site was found to have more than 60’ of undocumented and unsuitable soil. Additionally, the existing complex did not provide adequate emergency vehicle access and suffered from a “placelessness” that discouraged connection and community. The site did, however, have a dense canopy of trees.
PROGRAM: 96 two bedroom suites were stripped to the studs and rebuilt. A meager common building was demolished and replaced with a new 2story building that includes gathering spaces, study lounges and offices.
MATERIALITY: Renovated buildings were reclad in a mix of cement board sidings and a composite fiber reinforced hybrid cladding called “Resysta”. Stairs and bridges, as the most visible and active parts of the circulation system, have stainless steel incisions with glass rails and back-lit acrylic panels. The neutral palette of the renovated building’s envelope is contrasted with lighter and brighter “insides”.
The Commons is an expressed steel frame structure with a hovering weathering steel box over edge to edge glazing enclosures at the ground level. The undersides are clad in reclaimed Douglas Fir spaced to allow for lights and mechanical devices. The weathering steel box pivots on a brick clad service bar containing the restroom, mechanical spaces and the laundry room. Its “vee“ shape directs all storm water down a rain chain into an integrated biofiltration basin. Expressive stairs encourage walking up instead of using the elevator. The blank upper level wall overlooking the plaza is designed for community movie nights on the plaza. Students have also started using it to project gaming tournaments.