Reimagining Historic Buildings: Transformative College Residence Halls by Finegold Alexander

A collaborative design process in higher education, redefining student-centric living creating vibrant communities and sustainable campuses.

Wellesley College Residences
January 23, 2024
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In higher education, the design of residence halls significantly influences a student’s experience, providing a space to nurture community, learning, and personal growth. Finegold Alexander Architects, in collaboration with prominent New England universities, addresses the imperative need for flexible, welcoming student-centric living spaces to enhance the overall campus experience, while also supporting campus sustainability goals.

Wellesley College Severance Hall Renovation

Recognizing the diverse needs of the student body, Finegold Alexander embraced a student-centric approach throughout the design process, collaborating closely with Wellesley College to address programmatic, sustainability and accessibility requirements. The renovation of Wellesley College’s Severance residence hall was carried out in two phases, with the first phase completed in the summer of 2022 and the second in the summer of 2023.

Severance Hall historic living room – photo courtesy of Raj Das

Through strategic design moves, Severance Hall now offers various room configurations, including communal living areas, private study nooks, and shared accessible kitchens, aiming to provide students with a personalized living experience that aligns with their academic journey. Sustainable practices, such as the installation of interior storm windows and targeted air sealing and repairs to historic steel windows, were seamlessly integrated, contributing to the project's eco-friendly profile and significantly reducing the building's EUI within budget constraints.

Severance Hall - photo courtesy of Raj Das
Boston University – Kilachand Hall

Finegold Alexander envisioned the Kilachand Hall's 9th floor as a hub for community building. Common areas were designed to facilitate social interaction, cultural exchange, and the formation of lasting friendships. The inclusion of fully accessible student gathering spaces and seminar and group study rooms further emphasizes the importance of a holistic approach to diverse learning and student well-being.

Kilachand Residence Hall 9th Floor –photo courtesy of Raj Das

Working collaboratively with Stefura Associates, finishes and furnishings enhance and accommodate many learning and study modes. To accomplish the creation of these spaces, Finegold Alexander designed a new internal egress stair and elevators to service the increased occupant load of the ninth floor and enable the removal of exterior fire escapes – achieving significant life safety upgrades. Additionally, through creative re-purposing of found space on the residential floors, the design incorporated accessible bedrooms and bathrooms without decreasing overall bed count.

Kilachand Residence Hall student room with accessible bathroom – photo courtesy of Raj Das

Finegold Alexander’s transformation and renovation of these residence halls stands as a testament to the profound impact that thoughtful and innovative architecture can have on higher education environments. By prioritizing the needs of students, embracing sustainability, and fostering a sense of community, the design has created living spaces that goes beyond mere functionality, contributing to a rich and fulfilling college experience for generations to come.