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Completion: College Avenue Commons is Campus Life Center and Technology Demo from Ground Up

By Eric Jay Toll for Arizona Builder’s Exchange

Part 1 in a Tour of ASU’s Most Technologically Advanced Building

The College Avenue Commons project is the centerpiece for the urbanization of College Avenue. The five-story mixed-use building integrates the Del E. Webb School of Construction with public meeting space, spaces for future students to start and end campus tours, and space for the Alliance for Construction Excellence (ACE). Photo courtesy of Gensler | Architekton

The College Avenue Commons project is the centerpiece for the urbanization of College Avenue. The five-story mixed-use building integrates the Del E. Webb School of Construction with public meeting space, spaces for future students to start and end campus tours, and space for the Alliance for Construction Excellence (ACE). Photo courtesy of Gensler | Architekton

Showing the construction leaders of the future what technology can accomplish is one mission of College Avenue Commons. The five-story Arizona State University multipurpose building is the new home of the Del Webb School of Construction (DEWSC), 7th Street and College Avenue, Tempe.  The joint-venture ofGensler | Architekton designed College Avenue Commons. Okland Construction is the CM@R on both the building and streetscape.  SmithGroupJJR designed the College Avenue streetscape under separate contract.

Providing a place for alumni, students and fans to gather before and after events on the Arizona State University Tempe campus is another mission of the College Avenue Commons. The rebuilt College Avenue is paved in concrete and raised to sidewalk level. When closed off, the street can serve as center for parties, events, fairs and gatherings.

Serving as the center for prospective students and parents with a high technology, interactive welcome center, auditorium where the stage can be outdoors or in, and the Sun Devil Marketplace, college store of tomorrow, combine as another set of missions for College Avenue Commons.

Rendering courtesy of SmithGroupJJR

Rendering courtesy of SmithGroupJJR

 

Craftsmanship and Pride for “the Kids”

Okland Construction recognized it was crafting a building for “the kids” of the construction industry. Just as if building a home for one’s children, Okland put significant efforts into the complex components of the design. The concrete shear wall on the ground level is a smooth and flawless pour. “This was intended to show students that it’s possible to get a perfect wall from concrete and avoid cracks,” said Bruce Jensen, a project manager from ASU.

Conduit was set in ceilings with each junction perfectly aligned from one end of the floors to the other. Building design leaves the work exposed, showing how MEP can also be artwork. The joints on pipes in the exposable plumbing wall are clean, sharp and perfectly aligned.

Conduit runs are installed with meticulous attention to detail, perfectly parallel and joints aligned perfectly. Photo courtesy of Gensler | Architekton

Conduit runs are installed with meticulous attention to detail, perfectly parallel and joints aligned perfectly. Photo courtesy of Gensler | Architekton

Concrete forms for the grand staircase from street level to the DEWSC on the third level were individually shaped and expertly poured and finished. From the ground, the concrete appears to be a desert-color steel.

At every stage in construction, as the journeymen and specialists worked, students from DEWSC, ASU’s school of architecture and college of sustainability watched, participated and shared in the achievement. The construction of College Avenue Commons became a learning experience for the professionals and the professionals-to-be.

Walls are smooth, colors dance and complement, and natural light fills every corner of the building. The line between work and artwork is blurred in the Commons. The building energy flows inside and out, with streetscape designed to embrace, rather than separate, the building from the outside space.

The site connects with Mill Avenue to the west, with the campus to the north and east, and the ebb-and-flow of life in Tempe.

True Multipurpose Building

“This is a multipurpose building in every sense of the word,” explains Dr. Morgan Olsen, ASU’s executive vice president, treasurer and chief financial officer. “College Avenue Commons is designed to be classrooms, a welcome center, offices, student gathering space, and store. It’s a college bookstore without a lot of books.”

The building is a design and technology marvel. Students will learn construction engineering and management at Del E. Webb Schoolof Construction, and the Commons will learn how sun, wind, storm, light and heat affect a large, urban building. College Avenue Commons starts on the landscape and streetscape around the building. “We wanted an urban landscape with a pedestrian feel,” says Olson.

The Del E. Webb School of Construction’s first floor is the building’s third floor. The twin concrete staircases, floating on each side of a water-wall fountain and reflecting pool, are typical of the A+ concrete finishing working in the College Avenue Commons. Each tread had to be individually formed by hand. The crews from Okland Construction considered the staircase to be artwork. Rendering courtesy of Gensler | Architekton

The Del E. Webb School of Construction’s first floor is the building’s third floor. The twin concrete staircases, floating on each side of a water-wall fountain and reflecting pool, are typical of the A+ concrete finishing working in the College Avenue Commons. Each tread had to be individually formed by hand. The crews from Okland Construction considered the staircase to be artwork. Rendering courtesy of Gensler | Architekton

Streetscape Town-Gown Partnership

ASU worked with Tempe and replaced the streetscape on South College Avenue between 6th and 7th streets. The street is concrete tiles in multiple shades raised to sidewalk level. The street is marked with black ADA-compliant anti-skid strips. Mature trees and desert landscape will line the east side of the street passing the former weight room being adapted to a Postino’s on the south side and breakfast casual dining restaurant on the north side. The west side is dominated by the Commons and two outdoor, turf-covered gathering areas.

The larger of the two on the north side of the building has a shade structure that is also a work of art. The steel canopy uses spider clamps to hold a specifically-design blue glass skin creating a luminescent shade. While glass and shade seem to be contradictions, the material’s color is designed to reduce the sunlight and heat under the structure.

The turf area on the west side of the Commons can be an extension of the 300 seat auditorium. The seats rise to second floor level, but the all-glass wall behind the ground-level stage opens to the landscaped setting.

The joint-venture ofGensler | Architekton designed College Avenue Commons. Okland Construction is the CM@R on both the building and streetscape.  SmithGroupJJR designed the College Avenue streetscape under separate contract.

After taking in all the ground features, it’s time to enter the building—in the next feature. Del Webb or Sun Devil Marketplace; what’s your pleasure?

Future stories in the series:

Part 2: Technology – Professor Commons and the Future of Building Design

Part 3: It Takes More than a Village: Industry Involvement

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