Sasaki's design work at Bates College began with a campus plan, from which came the concept of creating a pedestrian walkway through the heart of campus and a corresponding dining and campus life center. The resulting Bates Alumni Walk and Bates Commons have transformed the college spatially and culturally. The Bates Alumni Walk is both the geographical center and the heart of activity on campus. It connects the academic and the social-cultural centers of campus with the Bates Commons. The Bates Commons is a dining and campus life center designed to meet the expansion needs of the college and provide opportunities for informal conversations and socialization among students, faculty, and staff.
The Bates Alumni Walk is composed of two parallel walks defining a lawn and birch grove between them. The birch trees are consistent with the surrounding landscape and impart boldness, simplicity, and grace to the space. Parallel bars of precast seats form groupings perpendicular to the walk. These same precast elements are utilized to form an amphitheater/outdoor classroom.
The commons features a main dining room and servery, supplemented with a fire place lounge, a cafe/emporium, and meeting rooms. The dining mezzanine allows zoning for various uses at different times of the day and throughout the week. As a wireless environment, any space becomes a solo or group study space. The overall flexibility of the commons truly create a multipurpose building.
Work on the building project began with targeted involvement of students and other members of the community. Sasaki asked students to participate in brown paper sessions, in which images of precedent projects were mounted on very large sheets of brown craft paper and participants were asked if the photos represented what they believed expressed, or did not express, the culture of the college and record their opinions next to the photos. This generated many lively, informative discussions that helped guide design solutions.
The commons is one of the first capital projects at Bates College in over a decade and reflects the college's commitment to environmentally responsible policies. The design team focused its efforts on reducing energy consumption, careful materials selection, and an innovative waste management plan and was directed to design the building to a minimum of LEED® Silver equivalence. The design team focused on reducing interior lighting, space cooling, and fan equipment loads and reduced the facility's energy use by 25% compared to a code compliant building. The commons also introduces an innovative dining waste management program. The facility includes several stations for students to pre-sort containers for recycling. At a dedicated recycling room these goods are rinsed, weighed, and packed for pick-up. This comprehensive solid waste recycling program includes pre-consumer food waste composting by local farmers and post-consumer food waste used by a local pig farmer. The commons generates so little non-recycled waste that a trash compactor/dumpster is not needed.