Urban Studies


New mixed-use student housing being built on St. Louis’ Delmar Loop.
Courtesy William Rawn Associates

A new cluster of student apartments at Washington University in St. Louis is redefining the modern residential college and reinvigorating an active commercial corridor. Construction started in February on the first four of what will be an $80 million, five-building complex along Delmar Boulevard on the border of the City of St. Louis and University City to the west.

Boston-based William Rawn Associates Architects has arranged the mixed-use development to help mend the area’s urban fabric while blending with surrounding historic residential neighborhoods. A pedestrian plaza—called the Mews—bisects the site and aligns with the existing street grid to promote connectivity and expand space for retail. “We introduced the pedestrian Mews as a way of creating a stitch between the Parkview Gardens neighborhood and the dynamism of the Delmar Loop,” said Doug Johnston, principal at William Rawn Associates. “As an urban form, the Mews became an important means of joining two very different sites together.”

The building’s height rises to four floors at the street corner to strenghten the massing of the urban corridor (left). A landscaped rooftop terrace will provide students new views of the city (right).

Each building is designed to transition between the active Delmar Boulevard and the adjacent quiet neighborhood. Subtle cues are incorporated, from the massing and materiality of the surrounding red-brick apartment buildings. The new buildings also step down in height from five to three stories. Johnston said courtyards on the residential side will help to break up the rhythm of the buildings’ facades and connect each loft-style unit with nature and daylight.

Away from the Delmar Loop, the development changes materials and breaks down its massing to respond to neighborhood conditions.

Facing Delmar, the south facade is covered in perforated aluminum louvers that capture light and provide residents privacy and respite from the sun. Some louvers will be colored, creating a visual rhythm across the facade and evoking the neon lights common along the boulevard. “The Delmar façade is about capturing the dynamism of the Loop district,” Johnston said. “We’re deliberately making a contemporary expression rather than one based in nostalgia.”

A second-story landscaped terrace will allow students to participate in the vibrancy of the Loop and also showcase the project’s sustainability. Much of the roof will be covered in solar arrays, making the buildings up to 40 percent more energy efficient than traditional structures.

The development will accommodate 600 residents. Construction is expected to take around 14 months and will be complete by the start of the fall semester in 2014.

Related Stories