Tulane University recently opened the Greenbaum House, a new student residence facility aiming for LEED Gold, designed by New York City–based Architectural Research Office (ARO) in collaboration with the New Orleans firm Waggoner and Ball Architects (WBA). The architects have masterfully added to a campus already scattered with residence halls by the likes of Perkins+Will, Scogin Elam & Bray, and Wayne Troyer Architects with a design focused on creating communities and interaction at several scales. According to ARO partner and design lead for the project, Adam Yarinsky, “The thing that we thought about from very early on, that is very relevant for a student residence, is how do you calibrate scale at every increment—from the room, to the corridor, to the common spaces, to the building itself and the spaces around it, and to the larger campus.”
On the corner of the previously ill-defined Zimple Quad, the difficult backless site is defined by two intersecting streets and the open green of the quad itself on Tulane’s western edge. The project redefines the quad by creating an edge to the space in addition to populating it with students by placing the entry into the project’s courtyard from this side. This allows for increased engagement in an area previously less populated with students while the heights of the project’s two L-shaped masses are in dialogue with the two other buildings that define the historic quad. The outer edges are wrapped in red brick panels and repetitive window types that pay deference to the two existing historic buildings, but the panels were also designed to create variations in surface depth to the otherwise muted facade. The material changes to pre-weathered zinc panels that wrap the project’s courtyard, producing an increased amount of reflected light and a change of scale, proportion, and patterning of the windows so that the courtyard becomes a distinctly separate space.
On the ground floor, which is accessible from the courtyard, are a variety of spaces, some open to all, like the classroom, and others open only to the residents, like the entry lobby, study and social lounges, and event space which can function as a demonstration kitchen. These spaces are glass enclosed on both sides, allowing daylight to stream in and setting up views into the courtyard, the quad, the streets, and, significantly, The Boot, a popular student bar. Additional street-fronted spaces include residential units for a faculty-in-residence and the house director, which connect to the courtyard as well while maintaining adequate separation for privacy and noise. Planters in the courtyard respond to seating associated with the ground floor program and contain trees that mediate the scale of the space and provide shade.
The upper floors are designated for mostly double-occupant rooms with and handful of accessible singles in addition to study and social lounges. The single-loaded corridor allows residents to always have an eye toward the courtyard while their room windows face out to the street or campus quad. The corridors expand at the short ends of the building allowing for the social and study lounges to have floor-to-ceiling windows maintaining a visual connection to the courtyard. Furthering the consideration of scale, bathrooms are shared between rooms and the rooms were designed to allow for multiple furniture arrangements, enabling students to start small with a discussion about their shared space as they adapt to their new environment and engage the varying scales of the college community.