The new Hillside Hall celebrates opening

October 26, 2012 - Lounges for studying and socializing are just about everywhere you look. Courtyards and rain gardens are beautiful and functional. A four-story glass bridge that connects the two wings of Hillside Hall adds sparkle to the south end of the residential section of campus, whether day or night.

The University of Rhode Island community celebrates all of those features and more at its formal opening and ribbon cutting for Hillside Hall, the new $42 million, 429-bed residence hall by Lerner Ladds Bartels Architects in association with Mackey Mitchell Architects. The event was held Saturday, Oct. 27 at 9:30 a.m. in the building’s courtyard, 140 Campus Avenue.

The 120,000 square-foot structure is located at Campus Avenue, north of Fraternity Circle and east of Barlow Hall. The five-story east wing is exclusively residential, while the four-story, west wing’s first floor is home to the Housing and Residential Life Offices. To maintain and enhance the cross–campus ties through the site, LLB Architects focused on pedestrian interconnectivity between the different districts on campus. A number of building through-passages at ground level allow for integration of existing pedestrian pathways while maintaining universal accessibility.

“This striking new residence hall is perfectly consistent with our strategic plan and transformational goals in that it provides for 24/7, multidisciplinary and global learning opportunities in a comfortable, sustainable setting,” URI President David M. Dooley said. “Not only does this building enhance learning among the occupants, it will also help teach our students the importance of environmental sustainability, which will be essential in the decades to come.”

Acting as a gateway to the campus Hillside District, Hillside Hall aims to engage students through the creation of dynamic spaces designed to promote student interaction on both an academic and social level. It serves as a living-learning community for pharmacy, nursing and international students, all of whom moved during Columbus Day weekend.

The new building houses numerous study lounges, as well as small, gathering spaces in each hallway to promote a sense of identity and community within the large complex. A strong architectural feature is the four-story, glass-faced bridge linking the two wings. The structure offers connecting stairways and two-story lounges with outstanding views of the exterior courtyards.

LLB Architects will be assisting the University in seeking LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Silver certification. Sixty-four solar panels provide hot water for the facility, sun shading fixtures and window vents keep the rooms comfortable while still allowing in generous amounts of light, and landscaping controls and filters storm water before it finally enters White Horn Brook to the west of the campus.

“There are water fountains and you can fill up your water bottle on each floor, so that’s great,” said Walter. “And then in the basement there are 12 washers and dryers, so I don’t think we’ll have to worry about waiting for laundry.”

The design of Hillside Hall, which features no-touch water bottle refilling stations and generous use of available light, also recognizes traditional pedestrian traffic to and from Fraternity Circle, the campus’ academic center and other residential neighborhoods with enhanced and enlarged concrete walkways.

The exterior consists of brick, wood, metal and glass, with the brick complementing the surrounding residence halls, and the wood veneer is consistent with the surrounding woods to the east.

Hillside Hall replaces the Terrace Apartments, a dreary, four-building, 54-bed complex on the site of the original quarry where granite was hewn for URI’s oldest buildings, Taft, Davis and Lippitt halls. Some of that granite, excavated during site preparation for Hillside, is now part of the landscaping.

“When you consider what was here before, a small, old housing complex that made poor use of the space, you can see the dramatic contrast of a very dense housing facility with excellent design, both exterior and interior,” said Robert A. Weygand, vice president for Administration and Finance. “The old site was overgrown, not very attractive, and now we have this wonderful facility that provides much more housing, but also creates beautiful common spaces, outside and inside the building.”

Thomas R. Dougan, vice president for Student Affairs, said he has already heard from many students about how much they enjoy the new residence.

“I am proud that URI has been able to provide such an excellent environment to learn and live for our students. All members of our team did an outstanding job putting student needs at the top of the list in designing and constructing this building. Hillside Hall is another example of how URI is trying to build a vibrant, spirited and effective campus community.”

See and read more on Hillside Hall.