The 117,000-square-foot Kent State Center for Architecture and Environmental Design “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.
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. A wide, amphitheater-style stair adjacent to the cafe creates opportunities for spontaneous discussion and provides a link between 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, encourage interdisciplinary discourse, 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. The color and texture of the iron-spot brick façade and custom brick fins, fired in a bee-hive kiln by the local Belden Brick Company, relate to the materials of the surrounding campus and town. 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.
WEISS/MANFREDI is a multidisciplinary design firm in New York City known for its dynamic integration of architecture, art, infrastructure, and landscape design. Founded by Marion Weiss and Michael A. Manfredi, their projects include the Olympic Sculpture Park in Seattle, the Women’s Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery, the University of Pennsylvania’s Nanotechnology Center, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden Visitor Center, Hunter’s Point South Waterfront Park, and the Barnard College Diana Center. They are currently redesigning the United States Embassy campus in New Delhi, India and are designing a new tower for innovative technological research on the University of Toronto’s campus. WEISS/MANFREDI has won numerous awards and their work has been exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art, the Venice Biennale, the Louvre, and the Guggenheim Museum.