As the College of Engineering at North Carolina State University continues to invest in the new Centennial Campus, the need for adjacent housing, dining, and other student life amenities has correspondingly increased. This project addresses this shifting population and advances the university's goal of creating a mixed-use academic village that fosters collaboration between university, industry, and government partners. The complex also provides a social opportunity for students to mingle informally with professors, staff, and other community members. Many different types of spaces are woven together to create a fabric of richness with a variety of functions, scales, textures, and flavors that create a sense of liveliness and vibrancy.
Sasaki undertook an initial planning study, which established site design and building concepts that would support this living-learning community, and integrate with the school's Centennial Campus Master Plan. Key design considerations included creating a mixed-use environment, respecting the existing context and character of the Centennial Campus and its natural surroundings, developing a sense of place, and creating memorable threshold moments.
The 20,000-square-foot dining facility is user-friendly, relevant, and marketable—balancing the desire for more amenities on campus with the mandate that these venues operate as self-supported business entities. The residential component of the project provides 1,150 beds of apartment-style housing. The residence halls differ from the neighboring academic structures in their articulation, fenestration, more intimate sense of scale, and use of glass and details to distinguish common spaces from apartment units. Entrances, lobbies, lounges, and meeting rooms of the residential buildings are strategically placed at threshold moments and along the perimeters facing the internal courtyards in order to create the synergy between indoors and outdoors that translates into a sense of place.
Developing a sense of place through identifiable neighborhoods was a key design factor for this complex. The design also creates a variety of outdoor spaces: the Green, the Grove, and the Plaza. These spaces simultaneously tie the complex together and create differentiated settings. Sasaki created nodes between buildings as convenient points of access that also foster social interaction and a sense of community.
Each building responds to its orientation and engages the landscape. The complex as a whole works with the natural contours and the site' natural features to provide suitable pedestrian, vehicular, emergency, and handicap access—ensuring constructability, minimizing cut and fill, and preserving the treed landscape.