Bates is a residential college in Maine with an enrollment of approximately 1,700 students. The Bates culture values the exchange and examination of new ideas that challenge assumptions.
The dining center at Bates had a strong sense of community and intimacy, but the school needed a larger, more flexible space to accommodate growing enrollment. The design team worked with the college to create a new facility that would accommodate a range of activities and dining needs while retaining the close-knit, human-scaled sensibility of the rest of campus.
Bates College also has a strong environmental studies program and a student body committed to sustainability. The school’s president, food service director, and campus architect wanted to embody this commitment in the design process and the building itself.
The design team engaged students, staff, and faculty in brown paper exercises, dinner forums, presentations, and even workshops for testing actual furniture pieces. The team learned that the students’ daily contact and relationships with the people who prepared and served the food was very important to them. The team also learned that the students knew exactly where to find their friends, but if they were having a bad day or needed to work, students hoped to find a quiet corner.
The resulting design includes the main two-level dining room, a servery, a café and emporium, a fireplace lounge, and meeting rooms—all of which provide the college with a wide range of programming options. Wireless technology allows students and faculty to meet and study anywhere.
The design team worked closely with the food service director and her staff to create an open, flexible servery that maintains the human connection between students and staff, and provides all the right equipment to allow menu variety.
The campus commons was also designed to be sustainable in its construction, operations, and menu. An efficient flow of materials in and out of the kitchen begins with deliveries and ends with the recycling—a local farmer even picks up post-consumer food scraps to feed his pigs!
The facility is LEED Silver equivalent and uses 25% less energy than the average new facility of its kind. There is so little waste that a dumpster or trash compactor is not even needed.
The commons is truly a warm yet dynamic home for the entire campus community. It has become the social destination for students, faculty, and staff to meet, eat, and discuss ideas.
With Sasaki Associates
Robert Benson Photography