Its lines give residence hall the feel of a community


Although many colleges and universities in Maryland are expanding their student housing, one state institution is winning national awards for doing so.

A 216-bed residence hall at St. Mary's College of Maryland is one of nine projects selected this year from around the nation - and the only one in Maryland - to receive housing design awards from the American Institute of Architects.

The Housing Professional Interest Area Awards program was established three years ago to recognize the best in residential design by American architects. This year's winners will be recognized at the AIA's national convention in San Diego in May.

Muse Architects of Washington designed the project at St. Mary's College, named the Edward T. Lewis Quadrangle Residence Hall after a former college president.

It consists of three dormitory buildings and a fourth structure containing common areas, including recreational and study spaces. The buildings frame a courtyard with an elliptical lawn surrounded by gravel walkways.

The buildings are simple, spare structures that reflect the tidewater architecture of Maryland's first capital, with brick walls and pitched roofs.

Principal-in-charge Stephen Muse said he and project architect William Kirwan designed the hall to fit in with the master plan of St. Mary's College yet have its own identity. He said they wanted it to be not just a building but a combination of indoor and outdoor spaces that would bring the students together.

They came up with the idea of using several buildings to enclose a courtyard that could be used in a variety of ways. A loggia carved into the base of all four buildings connects them and acts as a front porch and meeting place.

Muse said he and Kirwan wanted the residence hall to be memorable in the same way as the "academical village" and lawn that Thomas Jefferson designed for the University of Virginia.

"We didn't want to just make dorm rooms for students," he said. "We wanted to make a place, a place that would be part of their memories of being in college."

Built at a cost of $8 million and opened in 2001, the hall has become a popular spot on campus. Students have dubbed it "The Fort." At the dedication ceremony, one student, Cara Costantini, described it as a place that turns residents into neighbors.

"We have all the typical genres of people here," she said. "And in this space ... we actually get to stop and look at one another, and strip each other of those stereotypes ... and those roles we've played to identify our niche. In the new residence hall, we have created a new niche, a new community, a new home to which we all belong."

Other housing design winners included loft buildings in Seattle, Wash., and Charlotte, N.C., communities in New Haven, Conn., and Palo Alto, Calif., an energy efficient development in Santa Monica, Calif., a restored townhouse in Washington, D.C., and upscale homes in Rhode Island and Arizona.

The AIA's five judges said the St. Mary's residence hall was the only one of the nine winners that "every member voted yes on." They praised the project for blending in with the historic campus and showing "wonderful restraint in the overall design and site plan."

The AIA housing award is one of two national honors bestowed on the residence hall this year. It was one of six selected this month to receive the Brick in Architecture Award from the AIA and the Brick Industry Association. In 1999, the same award was given to St. Mary's for two buildings, a crescent-shaped townhouse complex and a science center, both designed by Bohlin Cywinski Jackson of Pennsylvania.

Muse, meanwhile, has been hired to design a second project for St. Mary's - a boathouse overlooking the St. Mary's River.

Planning for sprawl

Adam Gordon, founder of The Next American City magazine and a housing organizer for the Baltimore Regional Partnership, will discuss regional growth patterns in central Maryland during a free noontime forum on Wednesday at the Johns Hopkins University's Downtown Center, Charles and Saratoga streets.

Gordon expects 160,000 households to be created in metropolitan Baltimore over the next 20 years but says a variety of factors will determine how many will be in Baltimore and how many will be in the surrounding communities. "Planning for Sprawl: Where the next 300,000 residents will live," is the title of his talk, which is sponsored by the Baltimore Architecture Foundation.

Basilica talk

Architect John G. Waite will discuss his restoration plans for Baltimore's historic Basilica of the Assumption and other projects during a lecture at 6 p.m. Wednesday at the basilica, Cathedral and Mulberry streets. Tickets cost $13 per person or $8 for seniors or students with a valid ID and are available at the door.

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