By Laurie Lauletta-Boshart for Comstock’s Magazine

Architects and colleges collaborate to create holistic, functional and artistic spaces to meet the shifting needs of today’s students.

One of the biggest challenges for the architects designing the Winn Center at Cosumnes River College in south Sacramento, was configuring the project to house four very diverse disciplines: architecture, construction management, photography and pharmacology. “It’s a fairly standard practice of meeting with each of those groups individually and figuring out, in your space, how do we arrange things, and who’s next to whom in the building,” says Jonathan McMurtry, Associate Principal with Lionakis.

For example, solar orientation was important for the photography department, so a north-facing elevation was ideal. The architecture department needed a yard to build experimental structures, so the ground floor was best. The finished project yielded a 41,500 square foot, two-story building with the architecture department, a community room, lecture spaces and pharmacology labs on the first floor, and the construction-management department, photography department and faculty offices on the second floor.

The central front entry element is a circular design of floor-to-ceiling glass flanked by white curved walls. The entrance acts as the front door to the main campus as well as the building’s lobby. The modern design also incorporates brick, in keeping with the college’s material palette.

Before the project was offered to professionals, it had been posed as a student design competition; one of the major themes of the building was “buildings that teach.” Students from each of the four disciplines were employed to help work on the project. Lionakis hired two of the architecture students who won the student competition to work as interns, and after they graduated, hired them as staff. In addition, the architects created opportunities for learning by designing exposed spaces where visitors can see the workings of the building: an exposed rain leader, the radiant floor manifold in a display case, an example of a shear wall and braced frame.

“We are not hiding these things but actually exposing them to show people how they work,” says McMurtry.

This article was excerpted with thanks and for brevity from Comstock’s Magazine June 2020 issue.

Photos below by Chip Allen, and in the article, by Wes Davis.