Lehigh University Residential Life Master Plan
In 2016, Sasaki began working with Lehigh University to transform the student residential experience on campus. After identifying a long-term strategy for renovating existing housing, taking outdated buildings offline, and adding capacity to support the school’s growth, the school and the design team identified what was missing on campus: hangout and group study spaces and a “bridge” typology that offers more privacy than a traditional dormitory but more community than apartment-style housing.
The 720-bed housing complex provides this desired space by strategically weaving together a common route where students can make connections and strengthen their residential community. The design also includes a cohesive strategy for open space that respects the historic campus character and steep topographic conditions.
The campus is currently organized around east-west terraces with few north-south (up/down hill) connections given Lehigh’s steep topography. The new housing complex, comprising the South Cluster and North Cluster buildings, adds a new accessible public route that traverses six stories of grade change and links together student life programs. The design also opens up views and new outdoor spaces that connect the campus’s historic core to the residential hillside. The final design successfully reconnects the residential experience to the broader heart of campus with a sustainable and contemporary living environment.
The landscape design, in addition to bridging large variations in elevation, provides active spaces that flow from indoor student life venues to new outdoor recreational opportunities. The team studied the ecology of the surrounding woodlands to fine-tune plantings and update the core campus’s parklike landscape to provide habitat restoration and stormwater management. These efforts extend onto the green roofs of the buildings, connecting the entire complex to its landscape.
The central campus includes dramatic views and stone buildings that are experienced in the round. At the campus periphery, long, linear residential buildings form courtyards. The new buildings echo the solid, prismatic forms of the core campus while also framing new, active courtyards. Their forms are inspired by the campus context of late-19th century stone and brick laboratories and housing on a dramatic, lush mountainside landscape.
The new housing cluster will foster student wellness, with a balance of work and play while providing community identity. Key programs, including classrooms, a fitness center, a café, and multi-purpose spaces support mental and physical health for students immersed in rigorous academic programs. As an engineering school with an emphasis on project-based learning, Lehigh presents an opportunity to foster an intellectual life based on interpersonal connection.
Reflecting Lehigh’s impressive history as a leader in science and engineering, environmental stewardship and sustainability are key components of the neighborhood. Specific strategies proposed include an integrated suite of stormwater management components, energy-efficient building systems, and a solar hot-water demonstration system. The project is on target to receive LEED® Gold certification.
Construction on the South Cluster was completed in fall 2020. The North Cluster is slated for completion in the fall of 2022.
For more information contact Vinicius Gorgati.