Defining the Heart of the Campus

A student center serves as a campus’ heart. It is reflective of the school’s culture, and is a place for students to go day and night.

A Student Center is...

In late 2014, SMMA submitted a design concept for the expansion of a New England college's Student Center. Our design weaved together student life, athletics, and recreational sports—housed in three separate buildings—into a cohesive whole. 

The College’s core campus divided neatly between the formal “front yard,” defined by the institution's most historic and significant buildings, and the “back yard” of playing fields, with residential halls and social and athletic facilities in between. SMMA proposed relocating the campus entry drive, to feature and celebrate the arrival to the heart of campus through the prominent “display” of one of its more historic residence halls, across the full extent of the central courtyard.


In this revised context of views—both “of” and “from”—the north and south elevations of the expanded Student Center complex offered an opportunity for enhanced connections linking student experiences, exterior spaces, and the architectural built form. Our initial concept explored this “front/back” dialogue in responding to the institution’s preliminary study sketch.

  • Exterior view of new Student Center at a New England college

A Campus "Living Room"

Our concept proposition was to strengthen the experiential and symbolic relationships between these two large courtyards—inspired by the tower, spire, and cupola forms of the historic courtyard—by creating similar vertical landmarks as the new entrances to the re-imagined Student Center, the College’s “Living Room.”

3D rendering of outdoor dining porch at a university campus

Collaboration & Exploration

Our design for the new Student Center is indicative of the holistic approach we take to all such projects, which begins with a careful “reading” of the campus, its natural and built forms, and its spaces and patterns of movement.

Beyond past experience, our value as designers and partners is best demonstrated through our collaborative exploration of new possibilities and creative solutions, which will optimize the design of the environments in which to learn, live, work, and play.