Building of the Week: WSC Frontier Hall

Williston State College

February 13th, 2014

1. What were the circumstances of receiving the commission for this project?
The project was received after a selection via RFQ and interview process.

2. Please provide an overview of the project.
The new Frontier Residence Hall is the primary on-campus housing offered for students by the College. It provides many modern amenities and acts as a central gathering space for students and faculty. Its common spaces act as a place to build community and provide an attractive incentive for prospective students to consider the school.

3. What are the main ideas and inspirations influencing the design of the building?
Williston is a rapidly growing hub in the development of the Bakken oil field, where the high number of workers has created a severe housing shortage. Williston State College decided to build the residence hall to move students on campus in order to free up community housing and to provide an attractive and dynamic campus life.

During the planning of the residence hall, the College became determined to address the overall lack of a "campus feel" by working with JLG to develop a new campus master plan that used the residence hall as the first step in elevating the College as a whole. The entrance of the residence hall is located opposite the entry to the main classroom building, defining the campus entrance and setting up the development of a main campus quadrangle. The hall's siting, plan layout, and expanses of glass are organized in a way to maximize wonderful views of the Missouri river valley and to provide an inviting introduction to the campus.

Weathered steel was selected as the feature material responding to the industrial character of the town. Sunshade devices and reveals in the steel panels add shadows and pattern. Clean detailing throughout lets the materials, glass contrasting with the weathered steel, create a strong impact.

To fill the dramatic need for student study areas, the central core of the Residence Hall contains three levels of open study spaces. It also acts as the building's main vertical circulation, centralizing the building's activity and providing connection to the two housing wings. An atrium within this core opens the first and second floors up to the large exterior glass walls which frame views of the river valley. The fourth floor is dedicated to a large conference room. This conference room is available for campus-wide use, and has expansive, breathtaking views of the landscape in all directions.

4. To what extent did the clients and/or future users of the building influence the design and the outcome of the building?
The initial schematic effort was produced in a design charrette in collaboration with the owners design committee. Over a two day brainstorming session various building site orientations and plan layouts were explored and evaluated. At the end of the charrette a preferred option was selected. This option was developed over the next few months with the design committee which had representation from all the user groups, including newly enrolled students.

5. Were there any significant challenges that arose during the project? If so, how did you respond to them?
A geothermal system heats and cools the building. The anticipated payback is only seven years, making it a very economical and sustainable choice. The resident rooms and common spaces are all serviced with high speed internet. Also, recognizing the use of cell phones the owner made the decision to forgo the cost of installing land lines. Extensive use of large areas of energy efficient glass brings in plenty of natural light and views to the Missouri river valley, providing inviting study and lounge spaces.

6. How does the building relate to contemporary architectural trends, be it sustainability, technology, etc.?
The project incorporated aspects of the LEED rating system, including use of Low-VOC materials, recycled content and regional materials, and a recycling area.

7. How would you describe the architecture of North Dakota and how does the building relate to it?
Economical construction, efficient use of space, low maintenance and durable materials and energy efficient building enclosures.

campus college community publication residence hall students williston WSC