In response to Drexel University’s acute shortage for undergraduate student housing, the new dormitory was designed, engineered and constructed in fewer than 13 months. The project was organized by the university as design-build in order to accommodate the necessary fast-track schedule. This allowed for a more transparent process that brings together client, architect, builder, and subcontractors as active participants in the design process.
The new dormitory seeks to enhance the current and future campus pedestrian circulation. Taking cues from the university’s master plan, the housing space rises up from the ground to allow passage through the site, which enables a stronger connection between residential and campus areas of the university.
A cast concrete plinth mediates the sloping site topography and establishes the entry sequence for the dormitory. The transparency of the first floor exposes the shared program elements for the building, which include: gathering/ recreation space, mail and package room, vending, administrative services, and laundry area. The corner areas of each floor contain quiet reading areas and a shared kitchen/ meeting space. Mechanical space, maintenance shops and bicycle storage is accommodated within the plinth.
The bedroom floors consist of four-bed suites with a shared living room. The layout configuration allows the suites to be mirrored in plan regardless of location. The exterior panel configuration reflects the location of the living rooms on the interior, adding variety to both the facade and the access corridor.
Systems selections were evaluated based on speed and constructability. The structural system is precast concrete plank set onto a steel frame. The exterior wall panels are shop-fabricated and were placed on the building as a finished, water-tight assembly consisting of brick, aluminum, glass and ribbed metal.