As students return to a full, in-person campus experience at the University of Denver’s (DU) campus, many are entering a collection of three new buildings for the first time.
“Our university developed a major campus masterplan in 2016 under the leadership of my predecessor Dr. Rebecca Chopp, the Denver Advantage plan, and then immediately embarked on building several of the key recommended facilities that were envisioned in that plan,” said Dr. Jeremy Haefner, Chancellor at the University of Denver. “What no one envisioned, though, was that these pivotal new campus buildings would open amidst a global pandemic, a time during which our campus was operating under very restricted in-person learning experiences and capacity limitations. We are thrilled to finally see these buildings come to their fullest fruition in the hands of our students, faculty, and staff this semester.”
With the Fall 2021 semester kicking off this week, these new buildings are finally welcoming all into a new, and engaging, DU campus experience. A new community commons building, a new residence hall for first year students, and a new career center are all centrally located adjacent to the University’s Campus Green, each opening for occupancy over the last several months.
All three architectural projects were designed as parts of a unified whole, transforming the core of the campus. Designed in an integrated collaboration with DU’s Office of the University Architect, whose leadership and vision for this major campus advancement was established during the 2016 masterplan project conducted with Ayers Saint Gross.
The buildings were realized through oversight by DU’s Office of Facilities Management & Planning and visioning through DU’s Division of Student Affairs & Inclusive Excellence, Division of Career & Professional Development and DU Advancement.
Tying the new projects into an integrated campus experience within the campus core was Didier Design Studio, a Colorado-based landscape architecture practice.
The buildings include:
- University Architect: Jane Loefgren
- Design Architect: Moore Ruble Yudell
- Executive Architect: Anderson Mason Dale
The University of Denver’s new Community Commons welcomes an increasingly diverse student community and brings a critical mass of students and resources to the center of campus—a primary goal of the University’s Strategic Plan. The project funnels and mixes students capturing movement to and from the new first-year housing with a variety of types of spaces for students, faculty, staff and visitors to dine, meet, socialize, study, and make use of supportive services. Food services are strategically located at the heart of the Commons to unite the entire community and the building creates opportunities for the sustained encounters between people that are the foundation for meaningful relationships and student success.
Intentional student engagement through a highly participatory process revealed evolving priorities that informed the design. Responsive planning includes a central canyon-like space whose north-facing clerestory provides equitable access to daylight; social stair along the flow path; easily adaptable loft-like spaces; and operable windows, individual controls, and outdoor terraces that connect to nature and enrich social interactions. High-performance building systems reduce the energy use of the Commons by 49% against baseline.
Dimond Family Residential Village
- University Architect: Mark Rodgers
- Design Architect: Anderson Mason Dale
- Collaborating Architect: Moore Ruble Yudell
The Dimond Family Residential Village was created as a response to the University of Denver’s vision for a more inclusive campus environment that embraces first-generation students, cultivating retention by building bonds to the University community. The building includes 501 beds earmarked for freshmen, along with campus-serving programs such as honors and campus residential life. The building is designed around nested scales of community, organized into identifiable cohorts that allow students to gradually build relationships and a sense of belonging. The project creates social connections wherever possible, from interior “porches” at room entries, to common areas supporting each pod, to a communal bridge gathering space framing an activity courtyard designed to accommodate gatherings of the full University first year class of 1,450 students. The building is on target for LEED Gold Certification.
Burwell Career Center
Situated at a key nexus between the campus’s traditional core and its growing urban edge, the new 23,000-square-foot Burwell Center for Career Achievement will be a campus hub focused on student career development, employer engagement and alumni activities. A tower stair serves as a beacon and an executive lounge provides views to the campus, the adjacent city core, and the nearby Rocky Mountains. Designed as a LEED Platinum building, the Center is anticipated to use 70% less energy than comparable university buildings and was built utilizing a sustainably harvested mass timber structure, the first at the University of Denver.
These campus facilities were prioritized from those recommended within the campus masterplan to bring timely solutions to critical issues within the global higher education field. From diversity and inclusiveness to student retention and environmental responsibility, each new facility will have a significant impact on the student’s experience at DU and the campus community environment itself.
“Our work in creating an inspired, human-centric built environment is teaching the next generation how to reshape the world with thoughtfulness, grace, and artistry,” said Mo Lotif, Owner’s Representative, Office of the Vice Chancellor at the University of Denver. “We are grateful to have worked with such a strong selection of design talent to bring these important new facilities to life for the benefit of our students.”
Through the selection of award-winning architecture practices to design these new facilities, DU seized the opportunity to elevate the campus experience for its increasingly diverse population. Didier Design Studio led the landscape design for all three projects and Ayers Saint Gross developed the 2016 Denver Advantage campus master plan.
The Community Commons project and the Dimond Family Residential Village were built by Saunders Construction, and the Burwell Career Center was built by PCL Construction; both Denver-based construction companies.