Text description provided by the architects. Morgan State University (MSU) in Baltimore is one of the nation’s premier historically black institutions of higher education—and the largest within the State of Maryland—offering a comprehensive range of undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral programs. Founded in 1867, the university was designated a ‘National Treasure’ in 2016 by The National Trust for Historic Preservation. Its campus extends from a historic academic quad in a neoclassical style to a campus commons surrounded by modern buildings. Teeple Architects, working in collaboration with GWWO Architects, was tasked with designing a student services centre that would bridge the historic academic quad and the modern campus commons, while also establishing an iconic and uplifting ‘front-door’ to the university.
The Calvin and Tina Tyler Hall Student Services Centre improves the overall student experience by establishing a welcoming entry point for current and prospective students and gathering the university’s formerly dispersed administrative and student services under a single roof. As a student’s first official point of contact with the university, and their key administrative interface throughout their studies, the student centre was designed to affirm Morgan’s State’s long-standing position as a preeminent public university with a positive future. The building has an expressive form, with sweeping curved walls that reach out to embrace its surroundings and invite students into the dynamic campus, while its stone cladding links it to history and tradition. Much care was given to finding a limestone cladding that would blend with the palette of Maryland field stone found on the older adjacent buildings while allowing for a more contemporary architectural expression desired by the university. After a thorough material selection process, the university settled on distinctively dark Eramosa limestone from a quarry in Ontario, located three hours north of Teeple Architects’ office. The limestone cladding is accented with prismatic metal cladding that subtly shifts between rich copper and orange hues, depending on the weather, time of day and viewing angle.
Topographically, both the academic quad and the campus commons sit a full storey above the surrounding neighborhood. To negotiate the grade separation, there are two connected main entrances. One entrance is located at street-level and the other is a full storey above, at the campus commons. A large, landscaped arrival court invites students and visitors towards the street-level entrance where grand stairs, both interior and exterior, mark a formal procession up to the campus commons-level. With the ground floor partially embedded into the hillside, the landscape encircling the building makes use of terraced rain gardens or heavily planted bio-retention features designed to meet Baltimore’s stringent storm water management requirements. Inside, the student centre features departmental reception areas and service desks organized along a series of flowing, multi-storey lounges with ample seating, study, and collaboration spaces. A monumental stair with gently curved landings and a continuous wood soffit forms the connective tissue between the three levels of public lobbies and lounges, leading to various student-facing departments and culminating with a large student services counter. On the third floor there’s a large, landscaped terrace, planted with tall grasses and native pollinator species including Maryland’s state flower, the black-eyed Susan. A space for small events and gatherings, this terrace has panoramic views of the academic quad, centered on historic Holmes Hall. The iconic new student centre embodies the university’s pride in its history, and optimism for the future.