Achieving transformative potential

Photo by Anton Grassl

Loyola University of Maryland’s collegiate foundation is based upon the Jesuit virtue of exploration: to go forth and create meaningful professional service and leadership. Connection to the community expresses itself not only in sending students out into the world but also by inviting the world in. This give and take is at the nexus of the renovation and addition to Beatty Hall: the Miguel B. Fernandez Family Center for Innovation and Collaborative Learning.

The Fernandez Center serves as a physical gateway to campus and as a link for students to the community and life after Loyola. The concept for this building is to blur the boundaries between students and the community, Loyola life, and the world beyond in multidirectional relationships, while augmenting the active learning opportunities and providing a home for collaboration and innovation. To do so, the building supports spaces for diverse social interactions and various scales of connection.

The complex brings together Loyola’s behavioral, social science and education programs into an “academic loft” that promotes collaboration across disciplines. The most public and accessible student functions are located on the ground level, within a highly transparent space that serves as a welcoming “front porch” connecting campus and community. Approximately 70% of the building is shared space that supports innovation and active learning.

The complex is designed to allow for community mingling and ensure attention is paid to the space in between. Each faculty office area includes both formal and informal meeting spaces. These activity hubs encourage students to engage with faculty, and provide places for faculty to meet and work outside their offices.

At the heart of the Beatty Hall renovation, the Idea Lab serves as an interdisciplinary student hub for research, project work, and entrepreneurship. It is the most experimental spot in the building, serving as the physical and metaphorical center where innovative ideas and interdisciplinary connections occur. The space can be used for multiple classes to combine or as the starting point for workshops that break down into the smaller surrounding rooms.

The Café offers respite from work or study, allowing faculty and students to connect in a more casual setting, and invites the entire Loyola community into the building. It is visually connected to the outdoor learning space and the green of the campus beyond.

Photo by Anton Grassl

Sustainability was one of the key guiding principles for the project; it is core to our architectural practice just as it is core to Loyola’s values. We approach sustainability holistically, and then, within the broader framework, focus on the ideas that are most important to the project and the University.

Natural light provides exceptional benefits for the users of the Center. We used high performance glass to provide energy efficiency while maximizing daylight and views. The exterior sun shades are not just decorative; they are designed at an angle that will block the high summer sun and let in some of the low winter sun, reducing the glare within classrooms and offices, and allowing for unobstructed views out of the building.

Sustainability includes a focus, as it does on all our projects, on the health of the occupants. Healthy, low-emission materials are used throughout the building. Biophilic inspired patterns can be found in the carpets made from recycled materials. Natural wood is used in the ceilings and wall paneling. The building strives to blur the boundaries between inside and outside. A living green wall in the café space gives a natural backdrop to the community social space in the building, while views of the campus and community provide a connection to the landscape. The outdoor classroom brings teaching and learning outside.

Photo by Anton Grassl

Designing buildings for universities is about campus place-making. The building will not exist in isolation, and therefore needs to respond to its contextual environment. For the Fernandez Center, the exterior materials take clues from the surrounding buildings, while evolving the aesthetic of the campus to keep it forward looking.

The stone was chosen to be sympathetic to the Beatty Hall stone and related to the stone of the adjacent Donnelly Science Center. The building’s glass is as clear as possible to increase daylight and views where it faces the campus entrance-way. The reflective properties of the glass in the facades facing Beatty Hall highlight the details of the original building, paying homage to its place on the historic campus green.

Selection of materials and finishes for the interior of the building started with understanding the visual weight, color and texture of the exterior Beatty wall that would now anchor the center of the building and the circulation within. As you walk around the space, you experience the new and old architecture as a conversation, seamlessly knit together by the interior colors and materials.

Architectural projects are the most successful when they can combine new and evolving programmatic elements with forward thinking design concepts. There is such an opportunity with the renovation of Beatty Hall and the addition of the Fernandez Center. The two elements, program and architecture, feed each other and ultimately the whole becomes much greater than the sum of its parts. What has the potential to happen with a project on day one is exciting; but the things that are possible on day two, the things that nobody can currently imagine, have the potential to be transformative.