The Avery Point campus of the University of Connecticut has a deep and compelling history—one that sets the tone for the design of its student center. The campus, as it exists today, is a collection of original Tudor-style buildings from the Morton Plant era, numerous WWII-era buildings, and a small number of comparatively newer buildings. As such, it is a model of adaptive reuse on a large scale.
With a small enrollment and no housing on campus, Avery Point draws undergraduates primarily from within the state. The campus, which is composed of buildings originally intended for purposes other than academic ones, lacks a campus hub, an important piece of student life on a non-residential campus. The Avery Point Student Center serves this role with food service that encourages the casual mixing of students, faculty, and staff outside of the classroom.
Located at the main entry circle of the campus, the building wraps the north end of the main classroom building and serves as a gateway and public statement about the future of the campus. It breathes life into the existing classroom building by renovating a major interior space—the theatre—as a venue for public lectures and conferences. Dual entries allow access from the campus side and the public side of the building. The curving public face and porch radiates from the entry circle and welcomes visitors to the campus. Its generous open spaces abutting the shoreline serve as a public park for the Town of Groton.
The site was first settled in the early 20th century as the 72 acre summer estate of industrialist, yachtsman, and philanthropist Morton Plant. The property was sold at auction following Plant's death to the State of Connecticut. In 1942, shortly after the United States' entrance into World War II, the State sold the property to the US Government, for purposes of national defense, whereupon the US Coast Guard established its training station. In 1967, the Coast Guard relocated its training station to Governor's Island, New York, selling the property back to the State of Connecticut. The University of Connecticut then established one of what would become five regional campuses.
Recalling an important motif of the iconic Tudor-style Branford House, a number of exterior terraces and wood pergolas on the ground and roof extend the interior spaces of the building into the landscape, providing views to the water, ancient copper beeches, and other native specimens. The primary volume of the student center is slate, inspired by the roofs of the Plant-era buildings. This is accented by two smaller pavilions of timber cladding, which serve as a private dining room and a game room. The horticultural tradition of the site, as well as its seaside locale, are referenced in a low arc of beach roses, buffering the vehicular circle from the building entrance.
The project will achieve a minimum LEED® certification of Silver.
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