Strada Architure, Interiors, Landscapes, Interior Design

McCarl Center for Nontraditional Student Success

Pittsburgh, PA


Featured in College Planning and Management's January 2006 issue. Click here to read the full article.

“Nontraditional students” are an ever-changing and diverse population of College of General Studies students, many of them coming to university education later in life. The mission of the Center is to provide programs and services, extending from orientation through graduation, to promote and support their academic success, career development, and personal growth. The architectural objective was to translate these goals into an environment in which the nontraditional student could feel comfortable and thrive in a university setting.

The Center is located in the Cathedral of Learning in what were once university library stacks, under-utilized for many years since the library was relocated to a new building. The existing space offered challenges and opportunities: challenges because of the network of mechanical and electrical obstacles that could not easily be relocated, and opportunities in some areas where a high bay space was available. A high level of finish and design resolution was achieved within a relatively modest budget of $537,000.

The scope of the project was to provide offices for the program director and staff, a large meeting/seminar room, a student lounge and a separate library. The entrance to the Center is off the main elevator lobby and reception area for the College of General Studies, and the entrance is located in an area without windows, while the meeting/seminar room, student lounge, and library are placed at the high bay end with natural light. The basic parti of the scheme provides an interior “street,” with offices located to the sides, leading to the larger, public areas. The design complements and extends the “gothic” imagery of the Cathedral of Learning, the University’s signature building.