The 117,000-square-foot Kent State Center for Architecture and Environmental Design (CAED) “Design Loft,” the winner of an international competition, establishes an innovative center for the design disciplines and a beacon signaling Kent State’s creative, research-based programs. Sited strategically at a hinge between the campus and city, the Design Loft forms a new hub that forges connections between Kent State University and the recently revitalized downtown Kent. The color and texture of the iron-spot brick façade and custom brick fins, fired locally in a bee-hive kiln, relate to the materials of the surrounding campus and town. The project is currently on track for LEED Platinum certification.
A continuous gallery anchors the building’s main public level and opens up to the university’s new esplanade, a pedestrian walkway that establishes a connection between the university and the city as part of a joint redevelopment initiative. The ascending sequence of ground floor spaces support a broad range of activities including a café, gallery, a 200-seat multi-purpose lecture room, classrooms, library, and related reading areas. The A wide, amphitheater-style stair adjacent to the cafe creates opportunities for spontaneous discussion and links the public space located on the ground floor and the ascending loft of studios.
An expansive studio loft forms the heart of the program. Designed to maximize flexibility, it will accommodate a growing program and evolve to meet the educational needs of the architecture and design fields. The tiered arrangement of studios informs the massing of the building, which bridges the institutional and residential scales of its neighbors. A series of critique rooms ascend at the south side of the studios, encouraging dialogue between beginning and advanced studios and across the design disciplines. Continuous sightlines throughout the studio unite spaces of creation and critique and enhance the sense of peripheral vision for students and faculty.
A series of stairs activate both the north and south façades of the building and provide continuous circulation that connects all of the studios levels. The south-facing fire stair cantilevers from the face of the building, providing expansive views of the campus. The north façade of the building features large glazed areas of curtain wall that bring northern light into the studio spaces and provide panoramic views toward the campus and city. An ascending sequence of bay windows accommodates lounge areas that cantilever over the esplanade.
WEISS/MANFREDI, Architecture/Landscape/Urbanism was founded by Marion Weiss and Michael Manfredi. Their work expands the definition of architecture by connecting the territories of art, architecture, infrastructure, and ecology to create new public realms.
Their projects, which include the Seattle Art Museum: Olympic Sculpture Park, University of Pennsylvania’s Nanotechnology Center, and the Brooklyn Botanic Garden Visitor Center, construct reciprocal relationships between city and nature, architecture and infrastructure.
WEISS/MANFREDI was honored with the Academy Award for Architecture from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, Harvard’s International VR Green Urban Design Award, the New York AIA Gold Medal of Honor, and exhibitions at the Museum of Modem Art, the Venice Architecture Biennale, the Cooper Hewitt Museum, and the Guggenheim Museum. Current projects include the US Embassy in New Delhi, India and Artis-Naples, the multidisciplinary arts complex in Florida.