Life University – Commons and Residence Hall

The New Commons at Life University is a 362-bed, purpose-built residence hall that invigorates, comforts and inspires not only its residents, but the broader Life community. The project redeveloped an under-utilized area of campus, creating a new residential live/learn neighborhood.

Thoughtfully conceived, intentional design features support student recruitment and retention, facilitating engagement and providing a basis for academic success. No two common spaces are the same, creating unique environments within — though all boast natural light, electrical connectivity, and collaborative/engaging technology, their sizes differ and they are furnished in many ways for flexibility and inspiration.

Design Challenge

Because today’s Gen Z students like to choose how they utilize space, this building offers countless possibilities inherent in each design decision. The common areas throughout are designed for ultimate flexibility, with a variety of modern, moveable furnishings and study spaces of differing size and composition. The unique layout and design of this forward-thinking residence hall set itself apart with a delicate balance between aspirational spaces for self-discovery, spaces for study and collaboration and place for socialization, each with an inherent focus on community. Each of the 12 common spaces found between corridors is inspired by the “Faces of Inspiration,” a collection of inspirational individuals such as Nelson Mandela and Golda Meir whose portraits and famous words are featured prominently throughout the building in the form of dynamic environmental graphics. The result of this multifarious approach is identifiable, unique, and has multi-use environments promoting engagement, learning, and growth. The entrance is designed to make a lasting first impression for all who may visit the Commons and Residence Hall. A slide that has already proven to be a big hit with students and staff weaves its way into the lobby from the residences level above, visible from the exterior as you approach the building. Internally, what would traditionally be long corridors, offsets were designed to create visual “interruptions “that enhance the spatial experience.

Physical Context

The architecture takes advantage of the sloping site by developing a hierarchy of spaces through the composition of the entrance, lobby and café. Each at different levels, the spaces encourage the “see and be seen” mentality of today’s students. At the ground level is the heart of the building, with one side dedicated to student and visitor lounge space, and the other for dining and large meeting spaces. Within the dining component is a full glass façade, where diner views permeate into the exterior landscape and soak in the serene, green views of Life University’s campus. The exterior materials used mimic those of the other newer buildings on campus, integrating stone, metal and precast. The building footprint engages with the natural landscape and is a prominent structure on what will eventually be Life University’s new entrance to campus. Considering Life University’s substantial growth in enrollment and acquisition of land, the building’s footprint and placement was determined by the projected future master plan with growth on the site for additional housing, ensuring seamless integration to create a sector of campus that is inviting and engaging.