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I am joined today by our guest Arthi Krishnamoorthy and we discuss topics of the two new residential colleges that her team has designed at Princeton University, including strategies she implements to help make university buildings feel more like home for students that are coming from near and far. Additionally, we discuss the topics of how to integrate inside and outside to connect the colleges to the site and to the landscape, how to create designs that transform architectural spaces into homes for students and how she has addressed the impact of COVID-19 while building on-campus housing.
The Princeton residential colleges, which Arthi and her firm are currently designing, accommodate an additional 125 students per class along with new social spaces, a dining hall, and servery. The 485,000-square-foot project allows for an overlapping relationship between the indoors and outdoors by creating an “in-between space” that includes several passageways, courtyards, and thresholds in the design. Arthi shares with us the specific tools and strategies she uses when building dormitory projects, such as this one.
If you are interested in learning more, we will share some of Deborah Berke Partner’s most complex projects that connect design-thinking to their missions. Join us today as we discuss Arthi’s journey from Southeast Asia to the cornfields of Urbana-Champaign to West Philadelphia as well as how she brings to her designs to transform architectural spaces.
Arthi Krishnamoorthy has led several projects, including designing spaces for Princeton University and The Women’s Building, as a partner at the renowned architectural design firm Deborah Berke Partners, New York City. She has led some of the firm’s most complex projects and has built a focus on work for mission-driven organizations — work for universities, cultural institutions, and non-profits — connecting design-thinking to their missions. Through this work, she has developed an expertise in helping groups forge common purpose and in leading them to discoveries that can shape their evolution. Arthi is a graduate of the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign and the University of Pennsylvania.
[00:00:00] Announcer: What goes into making an iconic building in America? What are the stories and who are the people behind the next generation of architecture? If your work touches the real estate industry in any way or you’re just curious about what goes into one of a kind cities and towns all across our country, join us on the American Building Podcast.
In season two, we learn about everything from skyscrapers to single family homes. From the famous and soon-to-be famous designers and developers responsible for them. This season focuses particularly on the pandemic and how our buildings will change in response. Our sponsor is the iconic design firm, Michael Graves Architecture & Design. And now your host award-winning architect-turned entrepreneur Atif Qadir, AIA.
[00:00:59] Atif Qadir: This is American building, and I’m your host, Atif Qadir. We are recording from the historic home of world-renowned architect, Michael Graves in Princeton, New Jersey. Check out this amazing space for yourself at the Michael Graves Architecture and Design YouTube channel. Now let’s build something. Our guest is Arthi Krishnamoorthy aren’t they as a partner at the renowned architectural design firm, Debra Burke partners in New York city. There, she has led some of the firm’s most complex projects and has built a focus on work for mission driven organizations. And that work includes work for university.
Cultural institutions and non-profits and all of that, she connects the design thinking to their missions. Through this work, she has developed an expertise in helping groups, forge common purpose, and in leading them to discoveries that can shape their own evolutions. Are they as a graduate of the university of Illinois at Urbana champagne?
And the university of Pennsylvania, we will be talking about the two new residential colleges that her team has designed at Princeton university. More broadly. We will discuss strategies to make university buildings, homes for students that are coming from both near and far. Thank you so much for being here with us.
Absolutely. So let’s dig in. So you grew up in Singapore going from Southeast Asia to the corn fields of Urbana champagne. I’ve actually never been Derby at shipping. So I’ve matched dude. There are corn fields to, to west Philadelphia. There are some corn fields. Okay. So I want to hear all about that transition that you made as a student through all of these places.
[00:02:46] Arthi Krishnamoorthy: Well, it was a real transition going from Singapore to. And that was the weather. I had never seen snow before that. And I’m a bit shy to say that I went out in the snow and open toe sandals more than once before my
[00:03:08] Atif Qadir: intervention, they had an
[00:03:10] Arthi Krishnamoorthy: intervention.
And then there was the culture shock too. Of course, people would say, hi, how are you? And I would sincerely give my answer in long form. And, you know, to tell them how I was doing. And I thought to myself, oh, this is very time consuming. And it took me a bit to realize that it was just a gradient and that they only expected a summary response, but all jokes aside, I am so very glad that Illinois was my first stop in the United
[00:03:45] Atif Qadir: States, as opposed to like say New York.
[00:03:49] Arthi Krishnamoorthy: it’s a big school. And I think I saw a cross section, the middle of America and very humane, very kind and an authentic way. And it was a great first experience with the United States and my education. There was also it’s set a very important foundation. So from there, I went to Philadelphia to the university of pencils.
And I was attracted to their architecture program in itself and also very attracted to inset, Jason, see to an incredible landscape and an incredible historic preservation program. And I’m still interested in that connection between architecture. Landscape historic preservation and how architecture buildings should very much relate to their settings.
That’s their landscape, their cultural context of historic.
[00:04:49] Atif Qadir: I think that one thing I’ll mention is earlier this season, we had architects and Galia, Solomon and Camila on the show as the Galea is from Argentina and Camilo is from Venezuela. And both of them had remarked that when they came as designers to the United States, they were just frankly surprised at how separated and distinct design practice and design like as the vocation of design is in the United States where there’s landscape.
There’s product designers. There are architectural designers and never the Twain shall meet. I think it’s particularly interesting to hear that from those that have had experiences abroad and now are coming to the United States.
[00:05:29] Arthi Krishnamoorthy: No, I mean, think about the Edens, for instance, you know, they transitioned between farm.
And architecture and product design, and there was a fluidity and just a dedication to design. And I think that the siloing is not always beneficial. And so again, you know, my interest was actually watching all the other students to see what they were doing, watching the other faculty members to see what they were doing.
And I appreciated the ability.
[00:06:01] Atif Qadir: So you then have had the opportunity to work at two spectacular firms. So before joining Deborah Berke partners, you were at Pelli Clarke Pelli and you’ve worked with it’s renowned leaders, both the scissor valley, and now Rayfield Pelley, uh, who was a guest earlier this season on the podcast.
And then of course you work with Deborah Berke at your current firm. How would you compare these different experiences that you’ve had?
[00:06:28] Arthi Krishnamoorthy: I admire all of them though, over the last decade, plus working with Deborah, I’ve grown to embody and really extend her egos. But let me start at the start. I joined Orlean associates in 2003. And when you joined the. You were given a copy of Caesar’s book observations,
[00:06:50] Atif Qadir: which is an excellent book.
[00:06:52] Arthi Krishnamoorthy: It’s a very good book.
And in it Caesar, it describes eight principle connections that drive architecture, including time, place, and purpose time place translates to context, which both season and Raphael. Should drive design Jabber’s ethos is similarly grounded. She to the leaves that architecture shared, not the signature should not be driven by the creative ego or be singularly stylistic that instead it should be so inspired by so rooted in its surroundings that a building should be designed and knowing that it can be nowhere else, but where it is.
Born of its sight. It’s born of its context and its purpose. And that’s not to say that architecture should be invisible or just blend in. Sometimes architecture may need to assert itself, but whether the building speaks loudly or less, so insured make a place even more of itself. And Deborah, the antithesis of this in a pretty funny way, she describes a building that could be designed to be anywhere, a place, this building, or a generic building.
She describes it as bachelor architecture
and move it elsewhere, which is something I think is quite funny to think
[00:08:20] Atif Qadir: about. That’s actually a hilarious, uh, have you had a chance to go to the Cleveland rock and roll hall of fame? No. So it’s a beautiful, like front, uh, project right in Cleveland. And there’s something so odd about it. I mean, obviously it’s on, because it’s an item paper, the shape of it all.
It doesn’t quite look like a quote unquote building, but I think it’s actually beautiful, but it’s the fact that. Hark behind the building where the views are the most beautiful. And then you make a 180 around to come to the front side and it’s very kind of lonely wind swept a Plaza. And it just made me feel like something was off like this.
Wasn’t done. Right. And then in talking to Vishaan Chakrabarti. So he was on earlier this season. Um, it was really awesome conversation. Number two parts about his firm’s winning proposal to do a major renovation and extension to the project. He said when they were going through the design archives, they’ve found out.
The actual location. Wasn’t the one that I am PEI understood it to be. So he actually designed this project for a completely different site. And when I believe the acquisition process didn’t work out the way that it was meant to for the organization that was sponsoring it, that they literally just took Ink’s design and just put it in the new location that they weren’t able to get for the project.
And that’s why it’s, it’s literally special architecture. That’s the concept.
[00:09:54] Arthi Krishnamoorthy: You know, you, what you seen then is very curious relationships to its surrounding. And, you know, I think that’s one example and at least it has specificity and interest, right? The rest offenders I’d say are the buildings that literally are. Devoid of character that are so generic that they don’t relate at all to the place and they don’t make the place better either.
And I think that’s something we all ought to be very careful.
[00:10:30] Atif Qadir: But what I think of is that they’re in many parts of American life. I think it’s convenient to imagine that there are these clear divisions and these ideas of good and bad winner and loser, who’s responsible and who’s irresponsible these types of storylines.
And I think that for a large part of my career, I imagined. Designers did one thing and developers did another, and there’s this like a cosmic battle between the two and whatever really uncovered over the course of these many amazing conversations is the best designers are the ones that. About the variables and the sensitivities.
That mean a lot to the developers and or the property owners or clients and the best clients are the ones that understand the sensibilities and the realities of what a designer considers the most important issues on behalf of the people that’ll be using the building. And I think that trope of, ah, like these two, like battling entities, it’s not really true.
Those are actually the worst designers and the worst.
[00:11:36] Arthi Krishnamoorthy: Yeah, that’s not at all to, you know, I read a reference to developers once and maybe it is an overstatement. You’ll tell me, but, you know, calling them visionaries, you know, the people who begin with the first vision of something that’s possible. There is a lot of architectural critique and some of it is a lot of it is very intellectually interesting.
And it’s good. Think about architecture buildings in this kind of intellectual framework. But the ultimate goal I would say is for people to come into a building and say, G I love it. You know, that’s, that’s G I love it. Not because it has pink stone on blue stone or a great color of pain, but gee, I love it because it’s somehow is resonant for me.
And I think that’s, that’s the game. And that’s the way that one should view whether or not it’s successful or not.
[00:12:46] Atif Qadir: I think there’s something as the user of a building as. The observer a bit, there’s something so utterly exhausting about the process of thinking. What visionary means is that it is this lone Wolf architect that comes up with this great idea.
And this is what is given on a platter as a piece of gold to the city and its residents. When in reality, I think what visionary actually means is being very. I think it means being very understanding and it’s being able to bring together often very competing priorities in something that very elegantly subtly bring something new and valuable to those that need to use it.
And that is a lot harder than just burning something from your mind and foisting it on a city, which I think is too often what we celebrate in our industry.
[00:13:46] Arthi Krishnamoorthy: Architecture building real estate is a hugely collaborative act. There is no often this, it takes many, many, many intelligent, talented, committed people to make a built environment. And that collaboration in itself takes work collaboration, making room for people to voice. It includes very empathetic listening, which you described all of that takes time takes effort.
And it is actually, as you say, more difficult to do than just a signature. And I do think that the product of that collaboration, that collective that is more successful than the bottom, a single.
[00:14:43] Atif Qadir: And I think all the people that, that you mentioned from Sisera to Raphael, to Deborah, or very good at that, which is observing, understanding and producing something that is transformative.
So I want to understand what’s, what’s dotted all the way back to Singapore, who else played a process in your growth as a designer?
[00:15:03] Arthi Krishnamoorthy: So I think probably many people would say that their parents have influenced them. So I apologize if I’m being a bit predictable. My father is an architect as well. He practiced in the seventies and eighties when there was a huge period of growth.
[00:15:22] Atif Qadir: That was the beginning of this, the state of Singapore at that point, right,
[00:15:27] Arthi Krishnamoorthy: there was, they were literally building this developing nation. And so he made buildings for that developing nation and for the public, but at a personal level, she designed the house. Uh, and that house has this huge impression on them.
Singapore is tropical it’s smack on the equator. It is lush. It’s so much that if you leave anything still for any period of time, something will grow on it. And. You can sign a house that worked with the climate, not against it. It had interior courtyards, verandas that encourage natural ventilation. It used light air and moisture, and then almost painterly way.
And that left you more aware of the beauty and the meaning of your surroundings of nature. And this way of thinking is very ingrained in me and in our practice today, we think a lot about how we can create spaces that strengthen your connection to nature, to landscape.
[00:16:41] Atif Qadir: I think there’s a tying thread to everyone that is part of that.
They see diocese. So my family were Indian origin as well. Uh, but come from a different cultural lens that are background, what I find so fascinating is this idea of. Making something great from the resources that you have that is such a diaspora. They see desperate quality. And the idea of being able to learn and master things quickly, I think is also a really common element across the diaspora.
So, one funny example, like my mom, for example, is a chemist. She’s not an architect like your dad, but over the course of renovating their home in the Princeton area, not far from Michael bear’s home over this past year, she has gone from someone that was relatively new to the ideas of the. So from the design process, the construction process, I was responsible for that, but by the time that the furnishing process came, my mom was like, no, I got this.
I think I figured this out because she had observed what I was doing and how I was looking at things and the things I was suggesting in terms of brands and places to go, things are beautiful and have value, and she’s actually picking artwork on her own and she’s picking furniture. Beautiful. And when her Indian on moms and grandmas come, they hang out for that big expression book, kitty parties, I mean socially distant city parties, but they come over.
They’re like, oh my God, this is so beautiful. You’re so lucky to have your son. And she’s like, no, I did that. I thought you’d appreciate that.
[00:18:11] Arthi Krishnamoorthy: I do. I will say it does feel somewhat stressful to think about being the one. For your parents,
[00:18:25] Atif Qadir: but data, to be honest, that’s how it, for example, Richard Meyer got jarred in his group. It was his parents’ home in New Jersey. Although I, I would make sure to say there’s probably very little that Richard Meyer and I have in common as architects, but I think that remains. So you have now had the opportunity to do design projects all across the country, before this project here in Princeton, that we’re going to be focusing on.
So which of these projects stand out the most for you and what have you taken away from them?
[00:18:56] Arthi Krishnamoorthy: So we do do work all over the country. We’ve designed a series of hotels called the 21 scene museum hotels in cities, such as Durham, Oklahoma city. Nashville’s. And most of them are adaptive reuse projects, reimagining all buildings to be in this case, a hospitality destination that combines the display of 21st century.
Aren’t much of which is by living artists, a boutique hotel experience, and a restaurant focused on local cuisine. In fact, more than half, our practice is involved in the transformation of old buildings for you use this in a deck. And from that work, he learned to develop a very authentic language that is specific to the existing building and to this place, again, heightening one’s experience and understanding of the place, this authentic placemaking is something that comes out of our adaptive use square.
But we use that way of thinking in our new construction Plavix as well in all our projects. And I’ll refer to some of this as we talked about.
[00:20:09] Atif Qadir: Excellent. So digging into the new residential colleges. As I mentioned, my parents don’t live very far away and we actually record very close to the university as well, record this podcast at the Michael Graves.
Um, so I can gush at how epically beautiful the town is and the university is, but rather than hear from me, want to hear from you and let our listeners understand what is so particularly unique and special. The the place and the site that you have had the opportunity to design it.
[00:20:41] Arthi Krishnamoorthy: It is a beautiful campus.
It’s stunning. In fact, it’s garden setting is so beautiful that it’s described as an Arboretum. Our site has on one of its size, an area of Woodland, and this is special. There aren’t very many places left on that. It’s also just south of one of the main recreation fields on half called whole field. But to understand this particular site in context, let me explain that the new residential colleges are the first step in the university’s ten-year campus, which includes expanding across lake county.
So today the site sits on the edge of campus, but as the campus grows, southward, its situation will become much more in the heart of campus. And so we tried to anticipate how students and faculty move through the campus today and tomorrow, how they might traverse the site, how it can really become part of that connective tissue of the camp.
[00:21:50] Atif Qadir: And that’s the idea of this long-term trajectory, not just building for today, but literally in the case of an institutional, like university building for generations to come
[00:22:00] Arthi Krishnamoorthy: that’s right. I mean, these buildings will be there for a long period of time. I sure hope so. Part of the campus. So making decisions need to be both
[00:22:14] Atif Qadir: deliberate and very
[00:22:15] Arthi Krishnamoorthy: forward-looking.
And I think we’ve done a good job analyzing the languages of movement for instance, on the existing campus and being sure to, in some cases, continue them in some cases, improve them, be really forward thinking.
[00:22:36] Atif Qadir: So I think for was just to understand how particularly unique designing a residential college at Princeton is despite, I mean, in addition to the, the locational aspects that you described, it’s very important to understand the residential college system at Princeton, as well as the eating clubs.
Could you understand, explain rather what that system is for undergraduates and also compare what that system is for grants?
[00:23:01] Arthi Krishnamoorthy: I will say that because of my experience with this project, I’m more familiar with undergraduate life. So let me speak to that. But residential college system is meant to provide students the community.
They feel they belong to, and the sense of identity associated with that community. So you might meet a proud Princetonian. And the first thing they might say is I went to. And the second thing they might say, I went to forums college, which is one of the current residential colleges. And what that does is it values community and it values a sense of belonging to that community.
The residential colleges that we are designing are actually four year colleges and meaning that they will have students from first year all the way through. Many of the residential colleges currently are two years. And then there is an upper class tradition to join eating clubs. Eating clubs are not quite akin to fraternities.
Eating clubs are instead more of a combination of dining halls and social halls. But to get through a selection process to be part of them. So this is as a sophomore, you both in the selection process to be part of them as a 30 or fortress student. And that selection process, which is called fit. There is a course in the term selection itself and exclusive process.
Some of you will get in, some of you won’t get it. And there is then also built in. A feeling of some can be there. Some can’t be there. You may not get the one that you choose and concern is aware of this. And it’s part of the reason why these residential colleges are offering a four-year option it’s so that optionality is provided.
And I think choice is something is very important to students and is very important. Choice in, you know, what is your community? What is your dining experience? And it shouldn’t assume that one size fits all. And so in our residential colleges, we won’t have accommodations for third and fourth year students.
And in fact, we have to think a little bit about how do you compete, how do you make sure that your students want to live in these residential
[00:25:39] Atif Qadir: colleges?
[00:25:42] Arthi Krishnamoorthy: Not exactly. It shouldn’t be the ultimate version. And so we thought a lot about, we call this giving them a chance don’t experience. What is a capstone experience for the third year and fourth, fifth students.
And in designing the residence halls, we put rooms for third and fourth year. Students often singles in a way that they were arranged in a group with. Open space, the social space between them so that they could be a word, will speak, giving them, you know, the combination of privacy and community that they might see, and also put them at the ends of each of these girlfriends when they might have something that is specific and interesting that the architecture can offer.
And that could be special nose or that could be great. You know, if you think about. Um, great living experience. Might’ve had an old building. It may have been right. Me and my three junior roommates are in this attic space in an old building. And boy was that a cool space and that’s a capstone experience.
So we try to recreate that kind of specificness specialness in these rooms at the ends of the bars, so that we can offer an experience that is special and does attract the third, fourth grade school. As I said, the eating clubs are part dining hall, part social club. And so in providing dining alternatives, we also have associated with the third year, fourth year experiences kitchens so that they can do some of their own cooking and on campus.
This will be another options that are co-ops for instance, that students are part of that they can make their meals and together and find a sense of humor. So now this is another option and a constellation of options giving third and fourth year students choice in the community that they
[00:27:45] Atif Qadir: want to be.
Um, okay. And then in the context of that, cause you had mentioned that, uh, the client, the university was aware of some of the challenges that come with the upper-class system that you mentioned, the eating clubs, what was this? Project reef that the university gave you at the outset. And then how did you go about preparing their design response?
[00:28:11] Arthi Krishnamoorthy: Princeton, this have found them to be very thoughtful and sophisticated in thinking about residential life. And they gave us a very nice brief. They came to us with a value proposition. Well set, well developed set of. Fundamental objectives that they wanted the residential colleges to enhance student wellbeing, to integrate living in learning and to foster a sense of community and responsibility.
We then sat our bosses and we always start our process with careful listening. We listened to the experience and ambitions of students and administrator. And we made out with some unexpected discoveries and all the way we then go into a process that translates this into architecture. And so we designed the buildings to integrate the inside and the outside, connecting the colleges to the site and the landscape.
And I design sought to build community around hallways. We realized. That Holly’s quarters are. In fact, in Rez life, a real asset, we designed a way that the doors in the residence rooms could be held open by students. If they desired and took a very simple task, they put doors across from doors. So one sec roommates could have an open door to the hallway, open to another.
Which might feel thin to another set of roommates. And so you can kind of imagine a cacophony of yelling across the hallway of sharing music, and that is the first building block. And so thought about home hallways as an asset and opportunity. And the first of concentric rings of community starting there, moving out.
Nielsen design spaces to be visible, to be interconnected, to have views out to the campus so that you build in an awareness of each other, a sense of place in your surrounds and your community and in your region. And beyond to instill a sense of responsibility, their responsibility, we all have to each other to give visibility to each other.
So you have that feeling.
[00:30:45] Atif Qadir: Okay. So we’ve talked about the, the building blocks of this amazing project and understand it’s two buildings. So tell us a bit more about the numbers that are associated this number of beds and square footage. So our listeners are starting to get a vision of what the large scale of this project.
[00:31:01] Arthi Krishnamoorthy: Yeah, it’s actually eight filaments, but let me explain. So there’s two residential colleges on 12 acres. And each college will house 500 students. So 1000 in total, they each have their own dining hall that with a shared server and kitchen and the project in total is about 500,000 square feet. There is a 20 foot grade change from the top of the site to the bottom site.
And in that we saw a real sectional opportunity. Redesigned a continuous base that would hold a lot of the college programs, college programs and things that are more university public facing things like common rooms, college offices, the dining rooms. They all sit within the space. And on top of that base, since eight residence halls and each of these residents halls have individual floors that.
About 20 or so students and each of their residence floors, there’s also a living room space. That’s really key because that is the living room for
[00:32:14] Atif Qadir: that community. And that essentially becomes the, the tying thread for all of the buildings themselves. That essentially are the same way. It’s to know is for example, in New Jersey now, for occasionally than previously before, but is that also an opportunity for people to travel between both buildings not having to necessarily put on heavy coats and boots?
[00:32:37] Arthi Krishnamoorthy: That’s exactly right. We learnt this from these students doing that, listening to that, it was not really convenient, not really conducive to going friendships, to hanging out with that. And we did learn during programming during listening that students have different modes of studying, including, you know, this singular concentrated study, you might do this in a room.
We might do this in a library. You might do this honestly, in a dining hall where there is background, if that suits you, but there’s also a different mode of studying or social study. And. To acknowledge that there are different ways of studying and that there is a need to socialize. We didn’t build an interior, a continuous path through this podium, and this is an opportunity for that, so that a student does not need to put on their coat and their boots to get from one part of the building, to the other part of the building to go see a friend.
Went to study or just to hang out. And this was something that was important to the students and the podium them.
[00:33:50] Atif Qadir: So the core of, for instance, campus is in a collegiate Gothic style, similar to U Penn Yale. And for example, a duke university, many others that use that particular style, which is incredibly iconic.
There are a next generation of buildings at Princeton that integrate a wide set. Different architectural styles and material pallets. Um, could you talk to us about what you see as the, the visible materials that someone would be looking at feeling or touching as they’re walking through these new buildings?
[00:34:23] Arthi Krishnamoorthy: So we designed these buildings. I’ll start by saying who designed these buildings to be contemporary and Princeton was founded in 17, 16. It has a historic and intellectual underpinning that gives it an institution, place, depth and context. And we saw an opportunity here to consider how a place that was built for people 200, 300 years ago could also be built for you.
Why do you demonstrate evidence change and how do you speak to relate to this contemporary generation of students? And so deliberately these buildings are designed in a contemporary style rather than mimicking deal. The other thing you’ll see as you approach these buildings is a transparent. And, you know, this may not seem revolutionary on its own, but many of the historic buildings on campus do take stone all the way down to the mountain.
You can’t see it. And if you can’t see it and you can’t know what’s happening inside to know that you want to go participate. And so as you approached these buildings that you see is a transplant based with visibility. Let’s say at the first college into a corner and you can decide, I want to join this friend group or not.
And, or you can decide, I want to go in and sit near them, but not participate, which is also something that students say that they wanted the opportunity to do to not always jump in, but be able to observe before you jump themselves are designed with a wall. And then that one bread takes the tones and the wall of the shifts that you see on the historic buildings.
So when you view the buildings and now you can muster the brick is up when you view the buildings from, let’s say the other side of the field, and you can see it in context. When the historic buildings you do see between the use of a material. That is very sympathetic to the historic fabric. And also a roofline that you designed that is picturesque, that berries up against this guy, just as the historical exchange between the two of you.
See it, very sympathetic language, even though.
[00:37:07] Atif Qadir: I am going to take a break here to let our listeners know that we’ll be having real estate developer and investor Nick Volker on the show. Next. He is the managing partner of Cambridge, uh, Realty partners. And despite its name, the firm is based in new Haven, Connecticut, and we’ll be continuing our tour of amazing dormitories across the Northeast.
By focusing on the new residential building that he’s developing for Yale university students, be sure to head to American building podcast and subscribe to the pod on which ever platform. So you don’t miss any of the great conversations that we’re having this season developers like Nick often have a challenge capitalizing their real estate projects.
And Redis is a new technology company that unlocks public financing for commercial real estate. Check it out for firstname.lastname@example.org. That’s R E D I S T dot U
[00:38:02] Arthi Krishnamoorthy: S.
[00:38:10] Atif Qadir: So a key feature of the plan that you described a ten-year plan is the growth of the student body at Princeton. Talk to us more about who goes to Princeton now and what will be going in the future.
[00:38:24] Arthi Krishnamoorthy: Right? So the impetus for this project to build two new residential colleges from constant side was just important.
For instance, expansion of the undergraduate. Which they are going to increase the diversity of our student body broadening access to the education that they offer from this institutional objective. We took our charge to be, how do you design residential colleges to walk them and accommodate the experience of all students to design it in a way that you never leave our students saying feeling I’m here, but this is somebody else’s for instance.
But instead that this place says that it was designed for me too. That it’s my concern as well. I think you and I, and perhaps many of the listeners have had experiences where you don’t feel welcome. We feel like outsider, you don’t feel like you belong. So to me, and to offer, and this was very important to think through this and really try to deliver.
[00:39:32] Atif Qadir: I think what you’re describing is very emotionally resonant for me in particular, because what you’re describing was exactly my own experience. When I arrived at for instance, campus for admin weekend, that’s the weekend. After they’ve given admissions offers for those that are choosing, considering to come.
One of the first feelings that I had was looking at the minivan that my family came in to the university with, uh, compared to the stunningly beautiful foreign cars that were parked in the parking lot. And I mean, When I look the way I dressed, etc. It just felt so out of sync with everything that was there.
And I think it wasn’t particularly anything that anyone had said or anything that was expressed that made me feel that way. But I think particularly the things that you are describing. In terms of the very subtle strategies of how buildings can evoke a sense of place for everybody is so powerful because I think that can prevent perhaps a next generation of, uh, students from psyching themselves out of going to a place.
As wonderful and transformational as for instance. And I think it takes a truly special to architect that understand that there are many ways of saying things. And oftentimes it’s not the words that are important. It’s the physical objects that can count for a lot of, um,
[00:40:52] Arthi Krishnamoorthy: Princeton is undertaking a number of initiatives to think about the same problem.
And that goes in the built environment. You know, that goes from everything from thinking about waistline. Do you need to arrive at a campus? You feel lost or can you have a good way find me? So you feel a sense of autonomy and you feel that you can belong to this campus in short order, rather than having to learn it over the post.
Then in terms of architecture, I know architecture can only do so much, but as much as architecture can present signal. And choose for exclusion. It can send signals and cues for law. And so doing what we can and with architecture, nudging perceptions, nudging behavior, it’s all worth doing.
[00:41:47] Atif Qadir: So I think tied to that mental health is particularly a challenge for students during the pandemic.
And we’ve seen that talk about it in the news very frequently. Over the past few years, could you talk about some of the issues that are related to that, particularly for international students, for whom this might be their first experience in the United States experiencing tons of change? How. The design of a building can help accommodate and make some of those transitions easier for folks.
And I think we, we talked a little about that earlier in terms of the, the layouts of rooms, but other, other things that you consider beyond that as well,
[00:42:25] Arthi Krishnamoorthy: right? Early on, he thought a lot about loneliness. Loneliness is something. Again, I fully understand that architecture cannot solve on its own. So we did cart the way students will make their way to the.
To follow a path that would take them past other students to give them the opportunity to join a friend group or similarly, make the choice not to if they don’t feel like that, but that the opportunity to socialize is offered to them. You know, we design that interior network of ways to get from one place to the other and without putting your shoes and boots on, for instance, that’s all part of that.
It’s an offer. It’s a social. You have the opportunity to go be with other people. And we created barriers, scales of spaces for groups to gather, but we also created spaces for solitude and this fight. And I think this is important to acknowledge that you need sometimes alone time and time for reflection or time to withdraw.
Students’ work very hard and it can get super stressful and having a quiet place to take a breather is also key. And the last thing we did, I would say is to create moments where they could see and experienced the beauty of nature to help them snap out of their day-to-day, to give them a sense that they.
Um, to give them maybe a moment or a sense of perspective. I hope. And I think that’s healthy too.
[00:44:05] Atif Qadir: So the experience of design. A project involves many different types of designers. And maybe we talk a little bit about that earlier about how oftentimes in the design process in the United States, those experiences are really a silent, but there was a number of other firms that you worked with on this project that added additional layers to the design, such as artwork.
Uh, could you talk about those other folks that are part of this design process and how their work and their selections played a part in the larger.
[00:44:38] Arthi Krishnamoorthy: Yeah, we worked, as I mentioned with many talented, talented people, one in particular I’d like to highlight is the work of a creative Paul Steven Doyle and his farm partners.
They helped work with us to come up with a series of interventions, things that will give the students that moment of pause of connection. Even maybe a moment of wonder, for instance, for example, In 16 scattered locations, we will install a prism to a window in a hallway or a nook space. And at some point, if you’re in one of these spaces during the day, the prison will cast a rainbow on the floor, or maybe even on the book.
And our hope is that this will make you smile. Maybe this will make you have a more. And you may not come across one of these prisons on your first week. You may not come across it even in your first month, but you will discover it over time. And maybe you’ll tell a fellow student and you know, something of this place that isn’t widely known is known to you.
And that sense of discovery we think then also see.
[00:45:55] Atif Qadir: There’s something that reminded me of is a Paul Lewis. Who’s a professor at Princeton is doing the design of a new dormitory at Carnegie Mellon university in Pittsburgh. And he mentioned that the treatment of the breakfast side, in that particular case, they opted for very unique, very beautiful corbels at each of the windows, which are actually different location by location.
When you look across the facade of the building and those serve to bring. Different qualities of light and shadow that shift during the day that allow for this idea of wonder and change, um, which is actually kind of, I think it’s kind of cool to think about that because that means that as a designer, you are.
So observant and so willing to open your mind to think about what that experience is of someone not just in a momentary, sort of like a temporal way, but over the course of time, over the course of a semester and year, what could that experience be like? That’s very symbolic. I think of the type of work that you do and that type of work that you.
I would love to hear from you now that you have done a good amount of the design process for the Princeton project, how you placed this project in the larger portfolio of work that you’ve done at Debra Burke, uh, both, uh, previously and the projects that are perhaps coming down the pike, the, the core ideas that you feel are a part of the strategy that you’ll deploy in the future and tied to your past projects on dormitory projects, residential.
[00:47:26] Arthi Krishnamoorthy: So almost all our residential life projects really do center around community. So we think a lot about inviting students to engage with one another. And we give visibility to social spaces, interconnectedness between spaces. We design the spaces to be alone. Open-ended to be what we call non prescriptive so that students can.
You know, design how they want to use the space, even maybe move the furniture and feel that sense of urgency so that they feel a sense of ownership over this space. That then translates. We design spaces for people to come together and for solitude. And sometimes the thing also about our interior design in a way to think about how it can relate to.
Sometimes being deliberately eclectic or deliberately relating to a place in a very authentic way. So that it’s again, stylistic in one way and say a Western can Luxe, but that it is eclectic in a purposeful way, authentic and a purposeful. That it can relate to many, many people. And I think that’s what is important to us in our future work.
And that’s what has always driven us is going back to designing buildings, to relate and to resonate with people so that maybe they say, gee, I love it. And they may not say it, you know, the minute they walk in, but that they find something that resonates for them and they feel more connected to that.
[00:49:10] Atif Qadir: That’s a wonderful, wonderful ethos. And I think that’s a terrific place for us to wrap up as well. So thank you so much for joining us today on the American building podcast. Aren’t they. Absolutely. And listeners, if you want to hear the behind the scenes stories of how iconic buildings in our country were designed and built subscribe to this podcast on Spotify, iTunes, Google anchors, Stitcher, or wherever you like to live.
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