JOHN SIMPSON UNVEILS VISION FOR
AMERICAN ARCHITECTURE SCHOOL
The University of Notre Dame commissioned John Simpson Architects to build a new School of Architecture emblematic of the University and School’s vision of the future. The building was to be a pedagogical and symbolic icon for the School’s architectural principles such that students and faculty could point to the massing, character, and details to teach classes and give public lectures. The siting was to allow for future expansion of the School and set the tone for how the new area of campus would be developed as the new ‘arts district’.
The University expressed specific requirements: the exterior of the School should fit within the character of the Notre Dame campus; the use of brick for the exterior wall finishes should be employed; stone details and the sparing use of granite for the base of the building should represent the Vitruvian Triad of durability, beauty and functionality; and, the construction of the building was to emphasize economy while maximizing the architectural character in keeping with the values of sustainability and conservation for the long-term life of the building. The composition was to be classical with proportions and details appropriate to the School’s philosophical approach to practice, while the interior spaces were to be well considered and their interrelationships convey the clarity of the overall organization of the building’s parti.
Consistent with sustainable design practices, the new building was to allow natural light to reach habitable spaces, especially the studios, offices and public rooms. The use of natural ventilation and the free flow of fresh air through the habitable spaces were to be optimized in conjunction with the HVAC system. The interiors were envisaged to be spartan but durable with plain, concrete floors, concrete block interior walls and partitions, and exposed ceilings in studios, laboratories, classrooms and the areas of public circulation. More ceremonially appropriate architectural articulation was to be used for the main lobby, Hall of Casts, auditorium and library. Where possible, the spaces were to convey the sense of community that an architecture school aspires to foster.
The University’s preliminary planning had proposed that a first phase of development would include a 60,000 gross square feet building of three stories above grade, which was expected to facilitate the strategic growth goals of the School of Architecture programs through its offering of a variety of learning space types, state of the art technology, and overall flexibility of the facility to allow for a future expansion in a second phase. Such a building addition or annex would have functions directly related to the School of Architecture and would include an additional 40,000 gross square feet. During the initial preliminary consultation phase, however, the brief developed into 80,000 gross square feet with an additional 20,000 gross square feet designed as the Institute for the Study of Classical Architecture and Urbanism; it was then decided quite late in the design process that the main building donors, Matt and Joyce Walsh, would put forward an additional donation to build all 100,000 gross square feet to be ready for occupancy in December 2018.