Kent State Architecture College Proposals Unveiled

Design firms competing to create new, $40 million building on Esplanade pitched their plans to the Kent community

From simple and functional to splendidly provocative, four proposals vying to become reality as Kent State University's new College of Architecture and Environmental Design were presented to the public Thursday.

The university hosted the four partnerships competing to design the $40 million building by providing a forum so the architects could pitch their ideas for "solving the problem," as one presenter put it.

The challenge: capture the renewed town-gown synergy, combine it with the raw energy of architecture studios — filled with bright, young minds — and create a building that represents the symbolic and historic significance of a new link between the city and university.

"As far as I'm concerned this is more exciting than the finals of American Idol, the Oscars and the Super Bowl combined," Kent State President Lester Lefton said.

"One of the designs we unveil ... will be built on our Esplanade, the walkway that will soon extend directly into downtown Kent," Lefton said. "This landmark location makes a strong statement about the inextricable link between our campus and the city we've called home for more than a century."

The four partnerships remaining in the design competition are:

  • Bialosky + Partners Architects, with offices in New York and Cleveland, in association with Architecture Research Office of New York
  • WEISS/MANFREDI Lead Designer + Richard L. Bowen & Associates Architect, with offices in Cleveland and New York.
  • The Collaborative Inc. of Toledo, Ohio, in association with the Miller Hull Partnership of Seattle
  • Westlake Reed Leskosky with offices in Cleveland and four other cities

The four finalists were among an original 37 submissions from firms around the world who wanted to take part in the design competition.

A five-person jury will determine the winning firm, which will be announced in February. The jury is comprised of: Vivian Loftness, professor at Carnegie Mellon University; Brad Lynch, Brinistool+Lynch Architecture Design; Joan M. Soranno, vice president FAIA; Douglas Steidl, dean of Kent State's architecture school; and Michael Bruder, director of design and construction in Kent State's architecture office.

The 122,000 square foot building will be Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certified, which means the building will be highly energy efficient per the internationally recognized green-building standards.

Models of the proposals with further renderings will be on display in the Kent State Library for public viewing. University officials are asking the public to offer feedback on the four proposals via email at caedcomments@kent.edu.

The $40 million architecture building is part of $170 million in renovations planned for the Kent campus.

"All told, the changes will be historic in size, scope and significance," Lefton said.


  • Kent State Names Finalists in Architecture College Design Competition
  • New Kent State Architecture Building to Stand on Esplanade
  • Video shows Kent State Renovation Plans
Charles Crouch January 21, 2013 at 10:39 PM
The WRL proposal looks like an OSU College of Architecture copycat. Bowen's design has some practicality issues, with an overkill of glass that concerns me. ARO/Bialosky seems the most realistic. Were they the only team shooting for LEED Platinum?
Charles Weldy January 22, 2013 at 06:07 PM
Yes, the Bowen design is worrisome in that it is loaded with glass and structures which obviously levitate. Great for a presentation, but creating massive difficulties in heating and cooling - only to be partially mitigated by massively expensive and complicated assemblies. Apparently he assumes a wonderful new source of energy.
Roger Thurman January 23, 2013 at 03:50 AM
After viewing the displays at the KSU library I find the Bowen Weiss/Manfredi most inspiring, although my reaction a few days ago was contrary. The extensive use of glass will bring cheerful light info the building to offset our many gray days. This transparency lightens the structure and provides a faceted aesthetic transition from the campus to downtown. In spite of the size and climb of the tiered loft concept it will simulatneously please viewers but not overwhelm. Compared with the others the subtle curving footprint and transparencies convey an almost joyous, wondrous, whimsical aspect. It is so different from the adjacent structures yet it will not diminish them. Witness the garden paths emanating like tendrils from the building's south side openings, arfully blending with the adjacent terrain and houses. The library display presents two models, one in medium aspect to the nearby campus buildings and another much broader to show how the building dwells in the surrounding cityscape. Because of its radient prominence this will be an iconic building for Kent and the university. I can't speak to the issues of maintenance and energy usage compared with the other designs but it seems these architects must know how to handle those equally important aspects.
Matthew DelVillan January 24, 2013 at 08:07 PM
Saw the exhibit too, and Bialosky's model is the best by a landslide. Amazing craft & well translated. It's clear by their display they put the most sweat and tears into the project. (Remember, Weiss/ Manfreidi's public presentation... over half of it was past work / precedent?!? Pair that with a model with no passion. Effort wasn't there.)
brain s April 17, 2013 at 12:35 PM
I do agree Bialosky's is by far the best. I think it may have been a little harsh saying Weiss/Manfreidi's work lacked vision and effort. Often times we stick with what we know and do the best. Like artists, architects tend to work within their comfort zone. http://www.mccree.com


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