College dormitories are sometimes drab affairs, utilitarian in their design and timid in their expression. But Deborah Berke Partners’s (DBP) Dickinson College High Street Residence, completed in September 2018, uses a limestone masonry and paneled-zinc facade to create a bright and confident presence on campus.
As the building’s name suggests, the 42,000-square-foot dormitory is located on High Street, which runs through Carlisle, Pennsylvania’s historic core. Wanting to blend the dorm into its context of limestone Federal-style residential and institutional buildings, the design team created a four-story, roughly-cut limestone elevation whose three-dimensional surface creates a play of shadows. Alverson Limestone cladding supplied by Rolling Rock Building Stone is fastened to the north elevation with a block-and-plank structural system using masonry anchors.
“The public-facing limestone mass of the new residence hall bookends the central campus on its western edge,” said project manager Aaron Plewke at DBP, “echoing the facades of its historic neighbors, but with a modern and minimal sensibility.”
Many secondary structures within the town and region, such as warehouses and sheds, as well as other buildings on Dickinson College’s campus, are roofed with weathered zinc. The three campus-facing elevations wear this material strapped in a vertical orientation by thermally-broken brackets and horizontal rails.
The building’s restrained rectilinear massing is enlivened by moments of spontaneity in the facade. Irregular window openings are punched through all of the elevations, with those to the north deeply recessed within the limestone cladding. According to Plewke, “the pattern of the openings obscures the building’s efficient, repetitive layouts, avoiding the undifferentiated facade that would have resulted from strict adherence to the plan.”
While most of the dorm’s skin is made of stone and zinc, vertical bands of Sapele mahogany wood line entrances and principal community areas.
Each of the three facade materials will patina into different hues while they are exposed to the elements over the coming years; the sun will bleach the dark-grey limestone ashlar, oxidization will darken the zinc paneling, and general exposure will darken the mahogany strips to a leaden complexion.