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Monday, December 07, 2009

Walsh College

Walsh College in Troy, Michigan by Valerio Dewalt Train Associates

Photographs are by Justin Maconochie.

Walsh College outside Detroit, Michigan consists of five locations, with its main campus in Troy, just north of the Motor City. This location consisted of a 75,000 sf (7,000 sm) facility located on 30 acres (12 hectares), but the school is undergoing a much-needed expansion program. The first element in the three-phase program has recently opened, a 36,000 sf (3,300 sm) addition housing a new library, lecture hall, classrooms, and seminar rooms on two floors.

Designed by Valerio Dewalt Train Associates (VDTA), the new L-shape building is located to the east of the existing, to which it is linked on the first floor. The configuration of the addition allows the third phase -- another addition that will combine with the first to double the size of the Troy campus -- to create a three-building quadrangle. (The second phase will be an interior renovation and reconfiguration of the existing, providing "coherence for a building that has grown by accretion over the past 50 years.")

Both the street and future-quadrangle facades are marked by angled and faceted areas of glass. Each elevation is punctuated by a diamond-shaped glass expanse that spans both floors. These areas, as well as the abundantly glazed entry, signal the social nodes inside; the classrooms and other learning spaces opt for the control of windowless environments. But even in these areas the faceted motif of the exterior is carried to the ceiling's form and the triangular lighting set into the standard acoustical tile system.

VDTA's building is an exciting addition to its staid, brick neighbor, a shot of adrenaline, if you will. What's refreshing is seeing how the architects continued the dynamics of the exterior to the inside, in a gradient of sorts from the many facets and folds of the double-height lobby to the more subtle diagonals of the library and the classrooms described above. The building's dynamics in the social realm give way to the solitary and group learning deeper within, physically and mentally.

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