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Lower Campus Residences

Western Carolina University unveils new Lower Campus Residence Halls, blending community-focused living with the natural charm of the Blue Ridge and Great Smoky Mountains.

The Lower Residence Halls at Western Carolina University (WCU), set against the scenic Blue Ridge and Great Smoky Mountains, symbolize a shift toward more personalized, community-focused living aligned with the university's mission of being a national model for student engagement and learning. Replacing two aging residential towers, the project introduces more appropriately scaled housing solutions and a lively new quad, promoting a connected residential community and an enhanced outdoor lifestyle for WCU's active student body.

The project's location is integral to its identity, drawing on the natural beauty and outdoor lifestyle inherent to its mountainous setting. By incorporating natural materials such as stone and wood, the design harmonizes with its surroundings, offering a welcoming lodge-like atmosphere. This departure from the institutional appearance of the former towers to a more cohesive and inviting campus entry significantly enhances first impressions and daily life for students, faculty, and visitors.

Home to over 900 first-year students, the three residence halls are designed to foster small, intimate communities. Each building, through its thoughtful placement and design, emphasizes long views of the landscape and encourages community formation around a central courtyard. These areas, equipped with porches, fire pits, and hammock stands, facilitate interaction among students and a connection to the natural setting.

By integrating Cross-Laminated Timber (CLT) in common areas and prioritizing materials sourced and manufactured within the USA, along with the transition away from high-rise structures reduces the campus's carbon footprint while enhancing the landscape with permeable walkways and green spaces.

The use of precast concrete is reimagined to convey warmth through the skillful application of color, texture, and natural light. Custom color derived from local aggregates, reclaimed slate shingles, and strategic window placements create inviting, homely spaces. This design approach combats the traditional coldness of concrete, ensuring the residence halls are not just functional but also a warm and welcoming home for students.

Information
  • Sector: Higher Education
  • Scope: Architecture
  • Cullowhee, North Carolina
  • 2022
  • 267,534 SF
Project Team
D. Keith Storms
Principal
Marcus Brown
Project Manager
Jared Coffin
Design Principal
Kendall Roberts
Architect
Paige Conrad
Interior Designer
Collaborators
Newcomb & Boyd
MEP Engineering (Design)
Stanford White
MEP Engineering (Study)
SKA Consulting Engineers
Structural Engineering
Civil Design Concepts
Civil Engineering
Surface 678
Landscape Architect
Mulford Cost Management
Cost Estimator