UnitedIlluminating

Springfield Technical Community College, Building 19 Renovation

| August 24, 2016

 

by Robert A. Carroll

Robert Carroll AIA

Robert Carroll

Community colleges in Massachusetts provide affordable and accessible education to the public, serving nearly half of all students enrolled in the state’s public higher education system. Community colleges also fulfill a special responsibility for workforce development and have enrolled more than 246,000 students in noncredit vocationally oriented courses since 2008. As the only technical community college in Massachusetts, Springfield Technical Community College (STCC) offers career programs unequalled in the state.

STCC’s unique campus is part of the Springfield Armory National Historic Site, which contains 13 National Historic Registered buildings. Building 19, a former storehouse, was once a central part of the Springfield Armory, housing U.S. Army gunstocks since 1846. In 1968, Springfield Armory closed, and the facilities were ceded to Springfield Technical Community College. Now, 50 years later, the 767-ft.-long, three-story storehouse is being transformed into the centerpiece of STCC’s campus as a vibrant new Student Learning Center.

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Building 19 former military storehouse / photo by Peter Vanderwarker

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Building 19 / Ann Beha Architects

In 2013, a space needs assessment identified obstacles to STCC’s educational mission, noting that student life and student services and study facilities were sorely lacking. Locations of resources and the quality of existing space was also an issue, with many administrative departments dispersed across campus in repurposed buildings. Critical student resources and services were difficult to find, and accessibility was an issue. Centuries-old infrastructure and utilities provided yet another barrier to the future growth and success.

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The interiors highlight the building’s historic character. / Ann Beha Architects

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Student-focused spaces for studying, socializing, and gathering / Ann Beha Architects

The new Student Learning Center will bring these student resources, advising, and enrollment services together into a single building. With the consolidation of academic services and student life into one location, the college is able to rethink and optimize its organizational structure. Departments, which are fragmented and scattered across campus, will become more streamlined, less redundant, and more collaborative.

To meet the needs of current, enrolling, and prospective students, the Student Learning Center’s program is consolidated into four major hubs. The Enrollment Center simplifies and streamlines the registration process for new students. The Academic Advising Center combines a range of student support services. The Student Center includes a café, bookstore, and meeting areas for students to study and socialize. Finally, the Learning Commons combines the college’s library with instructional spaces for tutoring and information technology.

The transformation of Building 19 begins with critical improvements to infrastructure, utilities, and site. A new pedestrian landscape and universally accessible site design ties the Student Learning Center into the historic campus fabric and creates a cohesive campus identity. The sustainable site design features rain gardens with native and drought-resistant plants and soil layers to treat run-off and to reduce the peak loads on the storm drainage system.

Drawing on historic research, the team developed a design that preserves the remarkable architectural character of the building and landscape. ABA worked closely with both the National Park Service and the Massachusetts Historical Commission on the development of Building 19’s fenestration, which comprises nearly 50% of the facade, to enclose the building while providing natural daylight and views. Historic louvers designed for ventilation were reimagined as exterior sun shades to manage solar heat gain.

The interior design approach highlights the building’s original structure and materials and makes strategic interventions while maintaining the building’s historic character. Concrete shear walls add rigidity to the 170-year-old wooden structure, while new mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and fire protection systems are concealed within a central distribution spine.

Scheduled to open in 2018, the Student Learning Center will be a welcoming and lively hub for students. Addressing campus landscape and infrastructural needs, it will reinvigorate a unique and underutilized landmark building on the historic campus. It represents an alternative to new construction, striking a balance between stewardship and invention. By modernizing centuries-old campus infrastructure, optimizing campus resources, and providing desperately needed space for studying and collaborating, this project will enlist the former storehouse in the service of the college’s educational and social mission and its students.

Robert A. Carroll, AIA, LEED AP, is an associate and project manager at Ann Beha Architects.

 

 

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