Honorable Mention - Excellence in Architecture for Building Additions, Renovation, or Adaptive Reuse

Grinnell College

Grinnell College, Humanities and Social Studies Center
Grinnell College - Grinnell College, Humanities and Social Studies Center
Jury Comments
“. . . multiple wow moments of contrast between old and new . . . striking combination of modern and historic preservation . . . great integration of indoor and outdoor spaces . . .”


    • Site – 185,300 sq.ft; Building – 200,799 sq.ft
    • The center combines 53,000 gsf of modernization and 148,000 gsf of new construction.
    • The center provides 15 departments and 145 faculty with immersive, tech-rich spaces.
    • The project repurposed two existing buildings for 27% of building reuse.
    • The center features four pavilions—two new, two renovated—around a central atrium.
    • The campus palette includes brick and stone; the building uses these alongside a fusion of modern materials.
    • The HVAC system is geothermal; all lighting is LED.
    • A 30,000-gallon rainwater cistern captures 75% of the water runoff, with the remaining 25% sent to bioretention swales.
    • Roof drainage is stored for toilet flushing and irrigation.
    • The local geology, described as a rainforest turned upside down, is conserved through drought-tolerant and drought-adaptive plant species.


Grinnell College undertook an academic space planning process and a programming phase for a project to support teaching, learning, and scholarship in the humanities and social studies. This resulted in a project that thoroughly renovated Alumni Recitation Hall, a historic Collegiate Gothic academic building, and the 1905 Carnegie Library, which had been converted to offices and classrooms, along with a substantial addition. The boldly contrasting modern and historic styles reflect the old and new pedagogies alive within the architecture.

The faculty described their existing spaces as “a trip backwards in pedagogical time.” The renovation to meet modern learning needs posed significant construction challenges. In Alumni Recitation Hall, the floor slabs were removed and replaced with a new tiered auditorium space and reading room. In Carnegie, the faculty lounge regained its character-defining features, previously hidden by building changes. For both historic buildings, the restoration returned once altered exterior materials to their original form. The design builds harmony by encouraging nonconformity and preserving individual identity with various sensory experiences found in the three types of circulation in the building. Main Street is a vibrant hub that puts learning on display; side streets focus on departmental identity; and neighborhoods provide flexible arrangements of departmental space.

Three key themes drove the design: (1) The project must be unique to Grinnell and its sense of community, geography, history, and culture; (2) Inquiry-based learning must be promoted and supported by the building; and (3) The building design must preserve and enhance the beauty and character of the existing quads and campus buildings.

Project Team

Architect: Page Southerland Page, Inc.; Landscape Architect: Ayers Saint Gross; Lighting Designers: Quentin Thomas Associates, Inc. & EYP, A Page Company; Acoustic & Audiovisual Design: NV5; Signage & Wayfinding Design: Zebradog; Historic Preservation: Page Southerland Page, Inc.; Energy & Sustainability: Willdan; Accessibility: Institute for Human Centered Design; Structural Engineer: Page Southerland Page, Inc.; MEP/FA/FP Engineer: Page Southerland Page, Inc.; Telecommunications Engineer: Page Southerland Page, Inc.; Civil Engineer: ClapsaddleGarber Associates; Site Utility & Geothermal Engineer: Salas O’Brien; Cost Estimating: Cumming Construction Management; Specifications Consultant: Susan B. McClymonds, AIA, CSI, CCS; General Contractor: McGough; Owner’s Representative: CPMI; Construction Administration: OPN Architects; Commissioning: Systemworks