Traditional Building Portfolio
Palladio Awards

Project: Carole Weinstein International Center, University of Richmond, Richmond, VA

Architect: Glavé & Holmes Architecture, Richmond, VA; Lori Snyder Garrett, AIA, principal in charge; John R. Gass, RA, LEED AP, project manager; Lynden Garland, AIA, LEED AP, project architect; Nickolas Coile, LEED AP, project designer; Eleanor Barton, CID, ASID, interior designer; Danielle Goldschmidt, interior designer, University of Richmond

General Contractor: Taylor & Parrish, Inc., Richmond, VA; Bill Gillespie, project manager

LEED: Gold Candidate




New Design & Construction – more than 30,000 sq.ft.

Winner: Glavé & Holmes Architecture

International Influences

By Martha McDonald

The idea behind the new Carole Weinstein International Center at the University of Richmond, Richmond, VA, was that the building should blend in with the historic Collegiate Gothic campus, but it should also be distinctive. The goal was to create a major center to reflect the university's important and growing international activities and to bring together related programs under one roof. Because of its work in traditional architecture, the university selected the firm of Glavé & Holmes Architecture to take on this task.

The master plan and the original buildings were designed by Ralph Adams Cram and the university has not veered from that path. "Since its inception in 1912 when Ralph Adams Cram created the master plan and designed the first seven buildings, the university has adopted his philosophy and has been steadfast in perpetuating it," says John Hoogakker, associate vice president for University Facilities. The university now boasts 89 buildings, including the original seven, on 360 acres and an enrollment of approximately 4,000 students. "When I arrived here in 1985, we were sometimes considered provincials who weren't interested in modern architecture. Now we're the darlings of traditionalism," Hoogakker states.

"It is a very rich architectural context," adds Lori Snyder Garrett, AIA, principal in charge at Glavé & Holmes. "The campus is primarily Collegiate Gothic. The question was how to be respectful and appropriate to that context while also representing the global mission of the building. One of the Building Committee's goals was for the Center to be the same, only different."

The new International Center, the third building on campus to be funded by the Weinstein family, was planned in response to the growing international programs and the need to consolidate a number of functions. "It was built on the last available site in the campus core, which we were reserving for a major building," says Hoogakker. "The concept came out of collaboration between the dean of International Studies Uliana Gabara and myself. We had the luxury of considering this for several years. The prospects became exciting as we discussed it, so the donors decided to proceed with their gift."

The result of all of the planning and collaboration between the university and the designers at Glavé & Holmes is a 56,000-sq.ft., three-story courtyard building that successfully achieved the goals of creating a major international center with its own identity while also blending in with the campus.

The building wraps around a 3,000-sq.ft. open-air courtyard and is clad in limestone and campus-standard brick. The courtyard plan emerged early in the process. "From the beginning, as we tried to embrace international cultures, one of the thoughts was to organize the building using the courtyard motif," says Garrett. "Courtyards are prevalent throughout many cultures and that was important to the international theme of the building." "We have many quadrangles on campus, but this is the only courtyard," Hoogakker notes. "The center-courtyard concept goes back 8,000 years."

"The big decision," adds Garrett, "was whether or not to cover the courtyard. In our society, many courtyards are covered as atriums. We resisted that notion for a couple of reasons. One was it seemed to be less multi-cultural and more of an American expression. Secondly, the energy consumption demanded by most atriums would have hindered our sustainability goals. And, by keeping it open, the courtyard and the building become a crossroads that is a main thoroughfare through the campus. Students walk through the courtyard and engage it; so even if they don't enter the building per se, they get a sense of what's going on there. They often stop and have something to eat at the café."

Surrounding the courtyard is a columned arcade with slender limestone columns and various public areas such as the commons, a gallery, the Office of International Education and a café.

The café was not in the original plan, Garrett notes. "As we were talking with the committee, we realized that the goals of creating cultural crossroads and welcoming many cultures often advance when people can get together around food, so we changed the program to include a café. Our one regret is not making the cafe larger," she adds. "It is doing three times the business they predicted it would."

The courtyard also opens into the commons area on the ground floor via five sets of French doors. "One of the challenges was the academic requirement for a presentation/performance space to accommodate a variety of musical, dance, video and spoken performances. In addition, the space also has to function as a 'soft chair' lounge for informal socialization, and accommodate spill-over dining space for the café. The solution was to locate the multi-purpose commons on the ground floor, with glazed doors opening onto the courtyard. This blurs distinction between inside and outside and makes it into a more flexible space."

Another challenge was making the columns as thin and airy as possible. These spiral carved-limestone columns are actually 3-in. diameter solid-steel columns clad in limestone to create 10-in. diameter columns. "We originally hoped for solid limestone columns," notes Garrett. "Despite the fact that there are examples of limestone columns standing for thousands of years all over the world, the engineers were more comfortable with steel, so we ultimately clad steel columns with limestone. Because of that you see the joints in the limestone columns."

Another unusual feature of the open courtyard is the mandala pattern in the bluestone paving. This overlapping circular pattern was selected because in many cultures it's used artistically and spiritually, sometimes symbolizing the universe. "Our research indicated that mandalas are used in Native American cultures, by Buddhist monks in their sand paintings and also in labyrinth gardens and rose windows featured in European Gothic cathedrals. It seemed perfect for the building," says Garrett. The courtyard also features bluestone pavers with accent stones from 48 different countries.

In the center of the courtyard and on axis with the north and south facades of the building is a 6-ft.-dia. sculpture of a globe that spins over a circular fountain. The globe was created by Christopher Hildebrand of Tektonics, a Richmond-based firm. "The globe is on a tilted axis like the earth," says Garrett. "Many of our globes and maps are Eurocentric, that is they represent European countries and America larger than they actually are. This globe has no political boundaries and land masses are accurately represented."

The globe and fountain are sized and positioned to fit the building. "We wanted people to be drawn into the courtyard, so when you are at the front of the building looking in, the height of the sculpture is nicely framed by the arch," Garrett notes. "We wanted people to see that and to hear the sound of the water."

The overall shape of the building is square with towers anchoring each of the four corners. In addition, the north and south façades are almost identical, as are the east and west façades. Garrett explains that the building has no primary entrance, although there is an entry plaza at the north façade. "There really is no front and back," she says. "The north façade is on the street, so if you are driving by, that's the side you would enter. But the south façade looks toward the law school and the business school, and that side has the amphitheater. Most of the dorms are located to the north, so the building has become a crossroads on the campus."

The site slopes to the south, and this area features an outdoor amphitheater and is often used as an outdoor classroom. "The south side gets wonderful sun, so even in November, you will see students sitting out there," says Garrett.

"It is the only square building, and is notable on campus for its flat roof and symmetrical façade, and yet it blends with the Collegiate Gothic architecture," she notes. "We looked at Collegiate Gothic in other cultures such as the Middle East, Poland, Spain and Germany, and found that the expression adapted to different cultures in different ways. They all have very unique interpretations."

Eight carved-limestone medallions at the entry portals depicting traditional West African symbols for peace, understanding, truth and other virtues are another multi-cultural reference incorporated into the building.

"Looking at all the international manifestations of the center courtyard, we adopted the Italian palazzo as a basic precedent, considering it in the context of our campus and of our international aspirations. We invested the design with influences from other cultures, such as the spiral columns, significant use of ceramic in the building fabric, the iconography of the globe, the incorporation of stones from 48 different countries, and the use of mandala pattern," says Hoogakker.

The windows in the International Center, like others throughout the campus, are operable casements. "If energy conservation had not been such an imperative, we might have used the old leaded-glass windows, but the newer buildings on campus have used applied mullions, so we followed that example," says Garrett.

One of the features contributing to LEED points is the roofing. Around the arcade, it is slate (supplied by R.W. Harper of Richmond), while the flat-roofed portion of the building has an energy-efficient white membrane roof (from International Roofing, Richmond, VA). Initially the university targeted a silver rating, but it now anticipates having enough points to qualify for a gold rating.

Also contributing to LEED points are bamboo flooring (supplied by Costen Floors of Richmond, VA) and an ice-storage HVAC system located in the basement. "The original program did not call for a full basement, but we were able to put in a significant basement because of the slope on the south side of the site, and it can house the huge tanks for an ice-storage system," says Garrett.

The limestone for the building came from Indiana Limestone Fabricators of Spencer, IN, within the 500-mile limit to qualify for LEED points. Windows were supplied by Graham Architectural Products of York, PA. In addition, each window has a sensor that turns off the mechanical systems in that room when the window is open so the heating and cooling system doesn't do double duty. "And, because of courtyard building type, I believe they are getting day-lighting credits," says Garrett.

Construction for the $16.7-million project began in January, 2009, and was completed in time for the 2010 fall semester. Both Garrett and Hoogakker agree that the building is a huge success. "It has been very well received," says Hoogakker. "In fact, during the building dedication in October, we had four inquiries about reserving it for weddings."  



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