Monday, March 23, 2009
Seminar II in Olympia, Washington by Mahlum Architects
The Evergreen State College is located near Olympia, Washington in a setting that befits its name. The lush green surroundings are a suitable match to the school's curriculum focused on enironmental and social concerns. Five new buildings, called Seminar II and designed by Seattle's Mahlum Architects, are the first to clearly illustrate the College's emphasis, as well as the first new facilities on campus in over thirty years. Featured in Integrated Design in Contemporary Architecture, Seminar II is a great example of how architects, engineers, clients and end-users can effectively work together towards better results.
Sited to fit the buildings into their natural landspace, to preserve as many trees and vegetation as possible, this led to an asymmetrical arrangement in plan. The layout also inflects to link diagonally with the campus's main plaza, Red Square. The five buildings -- housing lecture halls, classrooms, seminar rooms, faculty and administrative offices, informal breakout spaces, outdoor teaching areas, labs, studios, and a café -- are linked by external walkways with plantings and small plazas for congregation and contemplation.
Other green features that arose from the integrated design process were recycled building materials (including fly ash in the concrete walls and structural members), natural ventilation, and green roofs covering just under half of the total roof surfaces. The interior spaces, be it classrooms or public spaces, have abundant natural light filtered through the large openings and the surrounding trees. The competently handled mix of exposed concrete, vision and channel glass, wood surfaces, and selective sun shading makes for a striking assemblage that fits in with both its natural context and the brutalness of the existing campus buildings.
Open since 2004, the over 150,000 sf (14,000 sm) LEED Gold project is the recipient of an AIA/COTE award, among others. More importantly, the buildings are highly prized by faculty and students, popular with both for classes and other uses. The integrated design process has created an environmentally responsible grouping of buildings that importantly suits both sets of users, who each took part in the process. Environmental and social/functional considerations do not have to diverge, and this project successfully illustrates how they can successfully align themselves. Of course it helps when that is also the client's focus.