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The new dormitory at Reed College is an architectural departure from traditional academic designs

LINCOLN BARBOUR - In designing Reed Colleges new Trillium Residence Hall, the architects produced a building that is in conversation with the dominant Victorian brick style of the campus, where even new buildings look retro (see left background), and yet is very radically different. They did so by consulting everyone from art historians and students to treasurers and administration. When architecture firm ZGF went to design the new residence hall on the Reed College campus, they faced two challenges.

One: Pretty much every other building at Reed is red brick – the Victorian look that quality colleges aspire to.

Second: They had to find out what kind of building the staff and students wanted, which meant asking a lot of people. As one freshman put it, "It's Reed College. Everyone's got an opinion here."

After ZGF won the bid with a design based on the pinwheel shape of the trillium flower, ZGF Design Partner Braulio Baptista led a series of meetings on campus. The result opened in last August, and now houses around 180 freshman students. Walk around the building, and you'll see copper siding reflecting the faintest glimmer of winter sun, the students' strips of LEDs and their possessions visible through the floor-to-ceiling windows, as well as Yang 2020 posters, and paper snowflakes stuck to the glass.

Some of the architects' key goals with Trillium Residence Hall were to provide a sense of a stress-free home to freshmen; to offer communal spaces for working, meeting, and cooking by having both a double-height atrium and hallways and study nooks; and to evoke the architectural heritage of Reed's campus by using layers of brick, copper, and glass.

Flower-shaped structure

The building has three wings arranged like a pinwheel around a node of shared space. Each floor has open kitchens. These are designed to "create daily invitations for students to connect over a shared meal."

Few people know the campus buildings better than Steve Yeadon, Reed College's Director of Facilities Operations. He says he was invited into meetings by ZGF from the beginning. "I'd say the process was different from working with most architects, but not difficult. It was enjoyable. There were more people involved."

Art specialists on the panel included Stephanie Snyder, a former Reedie and Director of the Cooley Gallery on campus, and William Diebold, a professor of Art History and Humanities.

"That was an aesthetic perspective that we don't usually have," comments Yeadon. "We tend to match the red brick used everywhere else. And this group of folks said, 'Wow, it'd be really nice to do something completely different than anything we've ever done.' So, we had to change our aesthetic palette," he said, referring to the college's Victorian look.

Common areas, collision points

He recalls that students were consulted mostly about amenities. (Since this was three years ago, and is a freshman dorm, they just wouldn't be around as undergraduates to live there, so they were not direct beneficiaries.)

"They were interested in common space, and how it would provide not just sanctuaries to be alone and quiet, but places that cause interaction among the students."

They wanted collision points: "Spaces where you walk through a room with half a dozen students hanging out, and you can easily enter that conversation. So, you're not thinking, 'I don't really know any of those people, so I'm just going to walk around them and make my toast in the kitchen'."

Inner Southeast's renowned Reed College had 1,400 students in the 1960s, and has roughly the same number today. After Trillium, the ratio of students housed on campus rose from 60% to 70%.

LINCOLN BARBOUR - The western sun lights up the copper panels on Reed Colleges new freshman-only dormitory, the Trillium Residence Hall. The architects designed the building in the shape of a trillium flower, with three spokes (or petals) of a central node - intended to encourage students to socialize in common areas. The new freshman dormitory building features copper, like many Reed buildings – but it is in large, expensive panels on the sides of the building. "People really like the copper," Yeadon remarks. "I think, from a facilities person's standpoint, copper's really concerning. You run into problems with copper when it's accessible, and people come in contact with it. You ding a panel of copper or you scratch a panel of copper, and you're replacing the whole panel. If somebody does graffiti on a stucco wall, I can just paint over it." But, fortunately for Yeadon, the panels are not very accessible to students. Trillium may one day be abutted by more buildings. The college may build on the patch of grass to the north. Yeadon says they will probably keep a soft edge (a buffer of greenery) between college buildings and S.E. Steele Street, the way they have with Woodstock Boulevard.

It was a big project by Reed standards, and they felt the pinch of competing with all the other buildings now going up in the Metro area, and the scarcity of skilled labor. "Contractors were busy. Gravel's hard to get around here. Concrete's hard to get. The city is jammed up, and permitting is hard. It draws everybody's projects out."

A tight timeline

"You can't just say, 'We were going to move people in on August 15 – but you know, you students can just go stay in a Motel 6 until we're done...' We really had a deadline, and those create some nail-biting moments in an area that is just so heavy in construction." However, the project came in on time and on budget.

Stephanie Snyder, director of the Douglas F. Cooley Memorial Gallery at Reed College, said she was impressed that ZGF "had representation from every single part of our faculty and administration, including the Treasurer, and sometimes the President and the Vice President. So, from my perspective, not having worked with another company like that before, the process seemed very transparent."

In particular, she likes the big, multi-use classroom space on the bottom floor, which other dorms don't have. Another goal was that the building should "let in light during the dreary winter months, and have real community spaces – where people could really congregate and study together. . . [A] dorm can feel like there's your room, and then there's a little bit outside it," said Snyder. The new building met all the stated goals.

Last month, on February 4th, Reed College announced that Trillium has earned a LEED Platinum certification for sustainability and energy efficiency.


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