Alter Hall has served the Xavier University community as its primary academic building for over fifty years. The majority of Xavier’s core curriculum has been taught in the building and as a result the building has been the central academic space on campus. A combination of aging building systems, shifts in class sizes and structures, and evolving pedagogies has rendered the building ineffective and obsolete, ultimately resulting in its complete shutdown in 2013. Its pivotal location on campus as a ’bridge’ between Xavier’s historic legacy buildings and Xavier’s contemporary facilities as well as its role as the ’workhorse’ classroom building demanded that the replacement solution be implemented.
Critical design parameters include providing a portfolio of classrooms to support changing pedagogies and to accommodate a future increased student population, supporting the university’s climate action plan, creating a building which ’bridges’€ the historic academic mall with the newer Hoff Academic Quad, and developing a variety of spaces which foster collaboration, interaction, and transparency among disciplines as well as among faculty, students and staff. The design solution resolves all of the programmatic challenges and offers additional benefits to the university, primarily through its ability to create new and visionary learning spaces for and its forward-thinking, sustainability goals. Although approximately 70% of the existing building structure is being retained and the building’s site and orientation are fixed, its new high-performance envelope coupled with highly efficient systems tied to the university’s central plant allows the building to minimize energy consumption, projected to be less than half of the university’s climate action plan goal. Other sustainability features include both passive features as well as features which will enable occupants to take ownership of their interactions with the building, thereby educating the occupants and promoting a cultural change within the Xavier community.
In addition to the design of the building and immediate site, MSA is also leading the effort to complete the Hoff Academic Quad and to implement the large-scale design concept of the Xavier Yard, a central green space at the heart of campus and at the scale of the institution. Tying together the need for an open yard, a central campus green space, a ceremonial gesture towards the chapel, and the pedestrianization of the campus core, this open space will become Xavier’s signature green space and will be unique among universities.