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Campus Center Featured in Weiss/Manfredi Monograph

The Smith College Campus Center is handsomely depicted in photographs in a new compilation of recent large-scale projects designed by the architectural firm Weiss/Manfredi.

An early sketch of the Campus Center concept, from Surface/Subsurface.

The Campus Center, a 56,000-square-foot building, opened on August 25, 2003, to provide a central space for the Smith community to hold meetings, socialize, dine and study. The facility also houses the Grécourt Bookshop, the mail center and a café.

“Serving as a junction between residential spaces and academic buildings, the sixty thousand-square-foot campus center is imagined as an elaboration of an en-route passage through campus,” notes the Weiss/Manfredi book, titled Surface/Subsurface, and recently published by Princeton Architectural Press. “The Smith College Campus Center serves as a mediating body, the only building at Smith available to all students, faculty and staff.”

Surface/Subsurface, which is distributed by Chronicle Books, pictorially outlines nine major projects designed by the firm since 2000 and the release of Site Specific, a similar monograph showcasing its previous projects. The book includes a foreword by Mohsen Mostafavi, dean of the Harvard University Design School; an introduction by David Leatherbarrow, professor of architecture at the University of Pennsylvania School of Design; and a question-and-answer interview with Marion Weiss and Michael Manfredi, the principles of the firm.

The shape of the future Smith Campus Center, as envisioned by Weiss/Manfredi.

The designs depicted in Surface/Subsurface emphasize Weiss/Manfredi’s approach to architecture that factors in the structures’ surroundings.

“Engagement with the site in its broadest sense is one of the distinguishing features of the work of Weiss/Manfredi,” comments Mostafavi. “In their projects, the area under consideration is often much larger than the actual building site and more akin to the territory of forces that affect construction, which includes the infrastructure.”

That firm’s approach is evidenced in the Smith Campus Center’s accommodating shape and function in relation to its surroundings. “The building is oriented as a pathway: one end opening toward the community of Northampton, Massachusetts, and the other onto the campus,” the book describes. “With its welcoming furniture and pathway orientation, the campus center closes the physical and social gap between residential and institutional buildings, creating a communal living room for the college.”

Other projects featured in Surface/Subsurface include the Olympic Sculpture Park in Seattle, Washington; Flushing Meadows Corona Park, part of New York City’s NYC2012, a bid to host the Olympics; the Museum of the Earth in Ithaca, New York; the Brooklyn Botanic Garden; and the Robin Hood Library at Public School 42 in Arverne, New York.

8/15/08   Eric Sean Weld
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