With a core mission of nurturing community engagement, student learning, and the demands of a modern legal education, Georgia State University‘s new College of Law building in downtown Atlanta promotes engagement and collaboration. Completed in June 2015 at a cost of $66 million, the 205,000-square-foot, seven-story building will also be the university’s first facility to achieve LEED certification.
Primary objectives for the project included supplying much needed classrooms and state-of-the-art learning space. The team from Stevens & Wilkinson designed the exterior skin of the building, and implemented the architecture and engineering to provide large assembly spaces, including a 230-seat moot courtroom and auditorium; an international arbitration center; and a 200-seat flexible-use conference center. The design also included large classrooms and seminar rooms designed to seat a variety of class sizes.
Emphasizing GSU’s vision, “the new building is integral to the College of Law’s commitment to provide an excellent legal education to a diverse student body, to promote legal scholarship and service, and to capitalize on its unique Atlanta environment,” says Ron Stang, AIA, LEED AP, chairman and a principal of Stevens & Wilkinson’s Atlanta office.
Stevens & Wilkinson worked with SmithGroupJJR, which implemented the design and programming verification, benchmarking, and design concepts for the building envelope; design-partner Harris+Smith; and builder McCarthy Building Companies to design and deliver a leading-edge building that provides students, faculty, and staff all the customary amenities necessary for institutional excellence.
The completed building features highlights such as a three-story public gathering space in the lobby; a two-story active learning space; and reading and study rooms adjacent to an outdoor garden terrace on the sixth floor.
Learning With United Leadership
The building’s lower levels consist of a moot courtroom and auditorium, including audio/visual devices and screens for students to watch their moot court performances following learning exercise sessions; a conference center for catering and events; learning commons, designed as a multi-use hub and the main organizational space in the building; and skills suite, including three courtrooms with breakout and deliberation space for simulation and experimental learning.
A mirrored layout of learning spaces, meeting areas, and faculty offices occupies the second and third levels. These academic floors consist of large classrooms and seminar rooms with adaptive learning settings and meeting spaces, commons, and support spaces for faculty. The fourth floor comprises dedicated spaces for administrative and organizational purposes, for both faculty members and students.
“The design setup is intended for content sharing for speakers, with cameras and advanced audio/visual equipment for learning and technology conveniences,” says Stang. “Built-in stairs connect the two floors, keeping these two similar levels of the building unified yet easily functional as separate spaces when needed.”
Beacon Of Light And Learning
The law building’s library sits on the fifth and sixth levels, which is the largest part of the overall concept. The library is available only to GSU law students, and includes study rooms, cafés, classrooms, and an alumni reading room. It was designed to sit atop the building as a lit beacon, establishing a civic institutional identity, among large Atlanta office towers.
The sixth and top level includes an exterior garden terrace with native plantings and an interior reading room with a view overlooking the library and adjacent Woodruff Park. Study and reading rooms flank instructional technology and lab review rooms available to students. Stevens & Wilkinson engineered access control, turnstile systems, close circuit TV, and fire-rated glass to provide security and safety for the building.
For the new College of Law’s current 646 students, the facility’s design expresses aspects of leadership, learning, and scholarship as independent building forms woven around a central collaboration space for the next generation of lawyers, judges, and others who will study, develop, and apply law in the future.