Calvin and Tina Tyler Hall, Morgan State University / Teeple Architects
Text description provided by the architects. Morgan State University (MSU) in Baltimore is one of the nation’s most important historically black higher education institutions – and the largest within Maryland – offering a comprehensive range of undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral programs. Founded in 1867, the university was designated a “National Treasure” in 2016 by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Its campus extends from a historic academic plaza in neoclassical style to a campus surrounded by modern buildings. Teeple Architects, in collaboration with GWWO Architects, has been commissioned to design a Student Services Center that will connect the historic academic quads and the modern campus, while creating an iconic and refined ‘front door’ for the university.
The Student Services Center at Calvin and Tina Tyler Hall improves the overall student experience by creating a welcome entry point for current and prospective students and bringing the university’s previously deployed student and administrative services together under one roof. As a student’s first official point of contact with the university, and their principal administrative interface throughout their studies, the Student Center is designed to underscore Morgan’s State’s long-standing position as a preeminent public university with a positive future. The building is expressive, with wide curved walls that extend to embrace its surroundings and invite students into the dynamic campus, while stone cladding links it to history and tradition. Much attention has been given to finding limestone cladding that would blend in with the Maryland field stone palette found in older nearby buildings while allowing for a more contemporary architectural expression desired by the university. After an extensive materials selection process, the university settled on the distinctive dark limestone of Eramosa from a quarry in Ontario, located three hours north of the Teeple Architects office. The limestone cladding is decorated with a prismatic metal cladding that subtly shifts between rich copper and orange tones, depending on the weather, time of day and viewing angle.
Topographically, both the academic Kaaba and the campus commons are located an entire floor above the surrounding neighborhood. To negotiate degree separation, there are two main connected entries. One of the entrances is at street level and the other is an entire floor above, in the campus complexes. A large landscaped access court invites students and visitors toward the entrance at street level where grand staircases, both internal and external, indicate a formal procession up to the level of the campus buildings. With the ground floor partially in the hillside, the landscape surrounding the building takes advantage of tiered rain gardens or densely planted bio-retaining features designed to meet Baltimore’s stringent stormwater management requirements. Inside, the Student Center features departmental reception areas and service desks organized along a series of flowing, multi-storey lounges with ample seating and study and collaboration spaces. A massive staircase with gently curved landings and a continuous wooden floor forms the connective tissue between the three levels of the public lobbies and lounges, leading to different sections facing students and ending with a large student services office. On the third floor is a large landscaped balcony, planted with tall grasses and native pollinator species including the state flower of Maryland, the black-eyed Susan. A space for small events and gatherings, this terrace offers panoramic views of the Academic Square, centered on historic Holmes Hall. The iconic new Student Center embodies the university’s pride in its history and optimism for the future.