SCUP/AIA-CAE Excellence in Architecture for a New Building,
University of Arizona for Arbol de la Vida Residence Hall with NAC Architecture
|Photo by Frank Ooms|
Arbol de la Vida is a large residential complex at the University of Arizona comprised of five buildings housing over 700 students. The central challenge was to reconcile the campus master plan's requirement for a denser, more compact, urban site development with the community needs of a 21st century honors college. Arbol de la Vida knits together the university and the community with new rights-of-way, a pedagogical landscape, a transit node, and building art that denotes building entry and campus gateway.
The holistic combination of the academic and living realms inspires and fosters learning and community as a joint undertaking.
The jury said “ . . . they tried to do something pro¬grammatically different with the residence hall and carried it through very successfully . . . it has a lot of smart aspects to it . . . lots of innovation . . .”
The design separates a large building program into smaller, more recognizable blocks that resemble old world apartment buildings draped along narrow, informal streets. This strategy keeps student community sizes small and recognizable. The outdoor spaces are envisioned as "stoa" or streets of learning from ancient Greece.
Sustainability strategies reflect the global focus of the honors college and were taken from global, traditional architectural elements found in cultures at the same latitude as Tucson. The focus was on passive energy savings and includes modern features.
The project mechanical and renewable energy systems contribute to 40% increased efficiency over a baseline building.
“We wanted a building that would build on lessons from the past and be very forward thinking. We wanted a building that would literally speak to students and offer lessons in creating a sustainable environment. And we wanted a building with a strong sense of place that utilized elements from other desert climates around the world. These very disparate interests were pulled together very creatively to provide a building that students now say feels in some ways like a medieval town, and in other ways like a Hong Kong research park, and is recognized as a highly sustainable living learning lab,” says James Van Arsdel, assistant vice president.
Project Team: University of Arizona with NAC Architecture