Inside USD

Architecture Majors Have Designs on New Library

Thursday, December 9, 2010

One goal of the University of San Diego’s new architecture major is to contribute to the region’s growth and development. Students will do just that this Friday when they present their semester projects on San Diego’s new downtown library.

Six students will present their projects to a panel of local architects, including Jim Darroch, supervising architect, for the library being designed by the well-regarded San Diego-based firm of Rob Wellington Quigley.

Sophomore Anthony Graham, for example, envisions a library with large open spaces within it, such as terraces and outdoor spaces. He’s also added a spiral design where the location of stacks of books and reading rooms rotate from floor to floor.

Sophomore Jacob Leyrer used a series of ramps to create gradual shifts in floors and elevations. Glass windows and walls open up to an atrium, thus creating the feeling of one large public space rather than many smaller private ones.

While Quigley’s firm has already created the basic design for a nine-story, dome-topped  structure, there are still decisions to be made, explained Daniel López-Pérez, assistant professor of architecture. “There are parts of the project that remain undesigned which is really interesting,” he said. Late in the process, for example, two stories of the building were changed from office space to a charter high school. Major decisions also remain on the public spaces for reading and event rooms at the top of the building.

“All of our students at a very small scale have made a contribution to the future of this public space and how we can make it more accessible and participatory,” López-Pérez said. “The breadth of projects is very sophisticated,” given that students had just one month to complete their designs, he added.

Last spring USD’s Board of Trustees approved the new major in architecture that emphasizes a liberal arts-based approach, encouraging students to study art, sculpture and other disciplines. As far as he knows, López-Pérez said the program is one of the few — if not the only — new architecture program to be established at a college or university in recent years and there’s been great enthusiasm and support from the architectual community for it. In October, for example, Stan Allen, noted theorist and dean of the School of Architecture at Princeton University, spent several days visiting students and classes at USD.

Next semester, students will begin studying another exciting project, Las Palmas, an innovative, mixed-use, public-private partnership that will be built out over the next 15 years in an undeveloped area of Tijuana to provide affordable housing and other amenities to residents there.

— Liz Harman

Members of the USD community and the public are invited to attend the architecture review session that will take place this Friday from 3 to 6 p.m. in Room 20 of Camino Hall.

Photo by Nick Abadilla

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