Museums. Theaters. Arenas. Luxury homes. These are dream projects for most architects. University buildings, on the other hand, serve as the bread and butter for lots of firms—especially during economic downturns. With academic projects less affected by shifts in the market as private, cultural, and commercial ventures seem to be, many university buildings begun during the recent Great Recession are newly completed, including several in our round-up of innovative higher education and research facilities. Among them are new buildings by SOM and Zaha Hadid, who both craft towering structures with striking facades within tight urban lots. Others, by Payette, Cambridge Seven Associates, Deborah Berke Partners, and Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects, create new landmarks on sprawling campuses from the Hudson Valley to Ireland.
1. Firm: SOM
Project: University Center at The New School
Location: New York City
Standout: The 375,000-square-foot University Center combines a seven-story campus center with academic spaces at its base and a 9-story residential tower on a tight urban lot. The glazed skin of the connective stairs along the building perimeter cut diagonally across the hand-finished brass shingles of the unique façade.
2. Firm: Zaha Hadid Architects
Project: The Jockey Club Innovation Tower at Hong Kong Polytechnic University
Location: Hong Kong
Standout: Home to the School of Design, the Jockey Club Innovation tower features 15 stories of design studios, labs, exhibition areas, multi-functional classrooms, and a lecture theater in a fluid composition that merges tower and podium and interior and exterior courtyards.
3. Firm: Payette
Project: Biosciences Research Building at the National University of Ireland
Location: Galway, Ireland
Standout: The 86,000-square-foot Biosciences Research Building provides high technology science research space in a long, low-rise horizontal structure. A wood and glass curtain wall system faces west along the most public edge, doubling as a thermal buffer for the laboratories.
4. Firm: Deborah Berke Partners
Project: László Z. Bitó Conservatory of Music at Bard College
Location: Annandale-on-Hudson, New York
Standout: Containing teaching studios, classrooms, and a large multi-purpose performance room, the 16,000-square-foot conservatory juxtaposes smooth white stucco with richly-glazed, dark masonry volumes in a flexible building that serves as a teaching facility and a first-rate venue for the performance of music.
5. Firm: Cambridge Seven Associates
Project: Health and Social Sciences Building at University of Massachusetts Lowell
Location: Lowell, Massachusetts
Standout: Completed in April 2013, the 70,000-square-foot Health and Social Sciences Building is the first new building on UMass Lowell’s South Campus in more than 30 years. The zigzagging structure houses three academic departments for Nursing, Psychology, and Criminal Justice and is designed around a large, rooftop glazed atrium space that introduces natural daylight into the center of the building.
6. Firm: Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects
Project: Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts at the University of Chicago
Standout: Clad in long bars of golden limestone, the 184,000-square-foot Logan Center houses the previously scattered departments of music, film, theater, and dance under one roof, combining a low, skylit building of studios and theaters with a tower that serves as a landmark and public venue.