alma college center for academic excellence

alma college center for academic excellence

The campus framework plan (developed by Ricardo and Gregory at their previous firm) identified several initiatives that this liberal arts campus in central Michigan should focus on. The re-conception of the library to create a clear and distinguished heart of campus was an important recommendation of the plan.

Over time, functions associated with the library, student life, campus-wide special events, and food availability have been dispersed across this small campus, leaving the campus heart with little vitality. In addition, the library does not provide enough of the collaborative, innovative workspaces that are at the heart of an experience-based learning environment. As an intimate campus with a 2,000 student population, the idea behind this library project is to provide a vital academic environment that enables various pedagogies and collaborations to occur. To accomplish this, the campus must concentrate the physical learning environment and many student activities in a signature crossroads facility. The best geography to accomplish this is in the current library, a 1960s era building with good bones but with poor systems and outdated interior spaces not conducive to learning and interaction.

After review the building’s physical condition, two scenarios emerged; the first adds a major addition to accomplish the college’s aspirations with minor upgrades to the existing building; the second focuses investment in the existing structure with a small demolition on the building’s south side and small, bolder addition. This second idea follows from the belief that the original structure offers great promise for renovation, that alumni memories of the interior spaces have value, that project costs will be less, and that overall campus square footage and overhead can essentially be kept even. The smaller addition could also be more dynamic and house a hub of highly visible campus activities. Because of these benefits, this second idea became the preferred direction.

The plan brings learning activity, student activities, workspaces and campus-wide functions such as guest lectures, symposia, board gatherings, and events to a single visible place in the heart of the campus. Additionally, the plan integrates a bold site idea, creating a highly visible long central green stretching from the main campus street deep into the heart of the campus, and making the proposed addition the iconic center of the stunning new campus space.