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Green Good Design
UMass Design Building | Amherst, Massachusetts, USA | 2014-2017
UMass Design Building | Amherst, Massachusetts, USA | 2014-2017


Architects: Leers Weinzapfel Associates
Client: University of Massachusetts-Amherst
Landscape Architects: Stephen Stimson Associates
Photographers: Albert Vecerka


Bringing together the previously dispersed departments of Landscape Architecture, Architecture and Building Construction Technology programs, the new Design Building occupies a pivotal site on a campus in rural western Massachusetts.

It is a dynamic space of exchange, collaboration, and experiment, celebrating a shared commitment to sustainability.

To create a center space of collaboration, a coiling and rising band of studios, faculty offices and classrooms surrounds a sky-lit Commons area for gathering and presentations. Functioning as the building’s physical and spiritual heart, the Commons acts as a three-sided courtyard that spills out through the cafe and entryway, down into the main campus, and invites the campus in.

The design of the day-lit Commons preceded almost every other aspect of the design, as it was important to give the three departments a place to come together as one.

Above the Commons, the building encloses a roof terrace and garden, a contemplative space shared by the studios and faculty, demonstrating green roof technologies for the landscape department.

The architects designed a zipper truss to accommodate the skylights and an inhabitable rooftop garden above the irregularly shaped green-roofed commons.

The zipper truss reinforces the overall building column grid, allows for various span lengths while keeping the same form, and highlights the cost effective custom digital fabrication process.

The site for the building is at the juncture of Haigis Mall created by Kevin Roche in 1975 containing the Fine Arts Center and the informal and intimate space of the late century historic campus- Stockbridge Way- home to the Studio Arts programs. The building serves as a pathway down the Mall from the historic to the modern campus.

The Design Building is a highly visible demonstration of sustainable design practice. It’s the largest and most technologically advanced academic contemporary wood structure in the US. It is also the first in the US to use the wood-concrete composite floorsystem.


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