A studied response

by PHOEBE LIU on Aug 16, 2011 in Architecture , Interiors
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 The new WilliamNeukom Building at Stanford University fulfills the space needs of a growing faculty and fosters collaboration

Architect Ennead Architects
Design partner Richard Olcott
Management partner Don Weinreich
Project designer Kate Mann
Project manager Steven Peppas
Interiors Charmian Place
Design team Sean Baumes, Katharine Huber, Kathleen Kulpa, Christina Long, Stefan Abel, Bernardo Almonte, Kenichiro Mito, Yasemen Omurtag, Yong Kyun Roh, Todd Van Varick
Associate architect MKThink

In late May this year, hundreds of people gathered on the law school campus of Stanford University in California for the dedication of the William H Neukom Building. Designed by Richard Olcott of Ennead Architects, the building is sited directly south of the existing law school complex. At 65,000 sq-ft, it creates a new focal point along the principal circulation route linking the residential and academic precincts of the campus, while bold axial connections to adjacent plazas, walkways, malls and building entries further define the school’s open spaces.

Reinforcing the principles of landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted’s original master plan for the campus, the building is organised around a central courtyard: four three-storey wings, connected by glass-walled bridges, pinwheel around the elevated faculty garden. A ground-floor plinth forms the base of the building and houses the law clinic. A monumental rotunda references the historic entry gates on the main quad, marks the convergence of the two principal campus grids, and establishes the Neukom Building as the central hub of the law school.

The rotunda’s open-air staircase leads to the faculty garden and upper levels, which house faculty offices, the dean’s suite and open and closed meeting and lounge areas. The faculty garden is intended primarily as the law school’s ‘living room’, designed to accommodate social events as well as individual study. The composition of materials and plantings creates a variety of ‘conversation rooms’, sculptural fountains at both ends reinforce the garden’s contemplative ambience, and a suspended, vine-covered, wood-and-steel trellis with a central oculus knits together the four wings of the building and creates an interplay of shade and shadow. Skylights, which have been seamlessly integrated into the design of the raised planter boxes, infuse the ground floor clinic with natural light. The area expands the law school’s sequence of outdoor spaces, which includes the reinvigorated Crocker Garden and Canfield Court.

The garden façades of each of the four wings are articulated by subtly textured planar limestone walls, which extend from the garden to the outer edges of the complex, thereby reinforcing the pinwheel plan and drawing people into the space.

Read the full story in the September 2011 issue of Perspective magazine! 


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