Phase 1 – First-Year Student Residence Hall and Student Commons Echo Collaboration

Rendering: Aerial view west along Evans Avenue, shows the new student commons (student union) replacing Driscoll North and the new first-year student residence halls to the far west.

Yesterday, we revealed details of the DU Career Achievement Center/Alumni center. Today, we are showing the first-year student residence hall and the Student Commons (student union). 

First-year students will live in dual ‘canyon inspired’ residence halls that run along High Street. The north-south dual structures snake their way behind the Morgridge School of Education building north to the corner of Asbury and High Streets. An elevated glass walkway connects the two first-year residence halls.

canyon looking north
This view from Morgridge north shows the dual residence halls with glass walkway bridge.

The five-story buildings will have ‘pods’ or clusters of rooms to create a sense of community. Typically, each pod has 12 rooms. The 2nd, 3rd, and 4th floors will have 6 pods and the 5th floor will contain 3 pods. The first floor would provide typical residential services such as laundry, food, and additional rooms for recreation and meetings.

level 3
The non-linear design and pods are intended to create more intimate living space for first-year students.

The student union, now identified as the Student Commons, is going to replace Driscoll North. Situated between Evans Avenue and Sturm Hall, the building will connect with the current walkway over Evans Avenue and support student activity, clubs and Student Life. As with the new Career Achievement Center building, the design will be more contemporary and open and provide additional space for meetings and student-led events. And, like the Career Achievement Center, the roof will also have green space (required by a recently passed Colorado construction law for commercial buildings) and pavilions which will provide elevated views of the campus and the mountains to the west.

facade studies
The design and style of the new Phase 1 buildings are a big change from the Dan Ritchie era of Ivy League facades. However, expect various construction materials to visually connect the buildings. 

The first floor provides for event spaces, community clusters, meeting space.and administrative functions. The second level will provide for food service and additional event space. Student services, clubs, and organizations will reside on the third level. And, finally, the rooftop deck and green space will be a more informal place for students to gather.

level 1 forums and clusters
The first-floor layout is typical of all the floors in the building with ample room for study, meetings and interaction.

Again, architectural design queus will continue to play off many of the more traditional buildings currently on campus (stonework, sandstone colors) but the primary objective of this building is to provide a more inviting space for students to spend time on the campus grounds.

level 4 roof pavilions
The roof will meet Denver’s new commercial green roof regulations while also acting as a meeting space.

Again, all of these Phase 1 improvements – the Career Achievement Center & Alumni center, first-year student residence halls and the Student Commons are all in support of the Denver Advantage, part of DU’s strategic 2025 plan which is intended to bring people together and encourage collaboration and engagement on the DU campus.

16 thoughts on “Phase 1 – First-Year Student Residence Hall and Student Commons Echo Collaboration”

  1. Architecture is non-complementary to the history of the University and disregards the predominant architecture of the surrounding neighborhoods. Ritchie-era architecture looks “ivy league”, not this metal and glass. The roof-lines are ridiculous — DU will now be known as the campus of the Flying Nun. Seriously, can’t you try to tie it into the brick and carved concrete at least a little?!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. These are better than the alumni center and will nicely tie in an empty part of campus. However I really, really wish they would have stuck with the brick and concrete look. In 100 years Nagel Hall, the Ritchie Engineering building etc will all still look great. Not so sure about these…


    1. Mark Rogers is DU’s architect and he has been intimately involved in both the old and new designs. Just my opinion but I am confident that he has thought long and hard about ‘fit’ and appearance. The new designs are definitely more open and welcoming. I am guessing we will be proud of the final product. I spoke with him during the design process and he seemed truly excited about the new projects.


      1. I agree with you. Mark Rogers has an impeccable track record. He’ll find a way to make these beautiful.


      2. If it was a different architect trying to go off in a new direction, I would be concerned. If it’s true that it’s the same architect on the new buildings as it was for the older buildings, than I am not as concerned. The renderings look pretty good to me, but it remains to be seen how they will blend in. Those who have not been around DU for that long may not know that it was a SUBSTANTIAL undertaking to get to the unified look that the campus has today. Before the Dan Ritchie era, it was a bit of a hodge-podge of different styles. So let us hope they keep it unified and incorporate significant common elements into these new buildings.

        Also, I would be concerned if architecture is guided in the slightest bit by the inane concept of inclusive excellence, as Swami appears to indicate in the comments on the other article. Give me a f-ing break. Just build a beautiful and functional building, and don’t worry about such meaningless concepts that people will be laughing about in the future. Someone in the DU admin should check in with Chopp and make sure that ridiculous notions don’t influence architectural decisions that will have an impact on the campus for …what….50…100 years?


  3. What’s the plan for parking? Underground? Because, despite the light-rail and unimpressive multi-modal transportation infrastructure, skiing, mountain biking, and anything else outside of Denver pretty much requires having a car.


  4. Those roof lines are atrocious as far as blending in with the rest of our school buildings. They don’t blend in but rather they “stick out” in a negative way. They just don’t look like they belong.
    Years from now the other school buildings will age well and still look good. These “foreigners” won’t.


  5. Can’t believe DU suddenly ditching the RItchie era architecture in favor of more bland psuedo modernist designs that look out of place with the rest of the campus. DU’s campus is so great because, for the most part, it has a consistency in architecture that most other schools do not. It’s one of the University’s greatest assets and it’s troubling to see DU ditch that so quickly, so easily, and at such a prominent campus location.


  6. I like the new designs – and the old as well. I think they will work well together. I think all doubts will be erased once the buildings are up.


  7. Collaboration–NOT. The residence Hall “non-linear” design isn’t all bad. The pods seem reminiscent of the wings at Johnny-Mac.without the central lounge which was used by all on the floor. Now the Student/Center/Union/Commons is a different story. I have to agree, there is a Flying Nun feel about that roof line. I am sure the students will come up with some delicious nicknames for that fly away look.( It does fly in the face of the University architecture standard.)


  8. A different but refreshing approach to the DU campus architecture we know… some of the newer construction like Daniels Business School has continued to hammer home on the romanesque-gothic hybrid happening around the campus, but this has resulted in huge walls of brick and tiny windows, not great interior spaces. Sturm is a little bit better about it.

    What I like about both of these is that they seemed more focused on the personal experience with the buildings, rather than an idyllic background for promotional photos (i.e. “the Ivy League look”). All of the glass on the student commons is way more inviting and open than any other building on campus – pretty appropriate for a campus center being built today. I would imagine you have great views in all directions from the vaulting roofs and gardens up on top.

    Nice work DU – happy you’re doing something a little more bold to complement the campus.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I really like the new Phase I design. A fresh, modern approach is an appropriate direction for the campus architecture here. The use of similar colors and textures of existing buildings will work well within the campus context. The building forms and roof gardens are very dynamic, creating inviting interior and exterior spaces. This building will provide a vibrant place on campus in which students will want to spend their time. Well done!

    Liked by 1 person

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