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Design Building, University of Massachusetts - Amherst

Leers Weinzapfel Associates

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Melanie, Leers Weinzapfel Associates

Project Name

Design Building, University of Massachusetts - Amherst

Year Completed



87,000 sq. feet

Construction Cost



University of Massachusetts - Amherst


  • Andrea Leers
  • Tom Chung

Certifications and Designations

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Project Description

Bringing together the previously dispersed departments of Landscape Architecture, Architecture, and Building Technology programs, the new Design Building will be a dynamic space of exchange, collaboration, and experiment, celebrating a shared commitment to sustainability.

Located near the main entry to the campus on a sloping site, the building functions as a hinge between the formal 1975 Haigis Mall created by Kevin Roche, and the informal and intimate space of historic Stockbridge Way. The building serves as a pathway down the hill through the campus between the two precincts.

To create a center space of collaboration, a coiling and rising band of studios, faculty offices and classrooms surrounds a skylit Commons for gathering and presentations. Above the Commons, studios and offices embrace a contemplative green roof terrace, outdoor classroom, and experimental growing space for the landscape department. The slope of the site creates a tall four-story façade on the downhill side facing the mall inviting the community into the building. On the uphill side, a three-story façade fits comfortably among the smaller historic buildings.

The use of a highly innovative engineered timber structure builds on leading edge research of the Building Construction Technology program. The structure will make this a demonstration for the sustainable use of wood building. The landscape development includes an active stormwater management system, rain gardens, and a palette of native plant and stone materials. A durable envelope of copper anodized aluminum panels and vertical windows suggest the color and patterns of forest and trees of the region.
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