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UMD School of Public Policy breaks ground

Oct 31, 2019

The prominent classroom building and Do Good Institute headquarters creates a new campus gateway and catalyst for public discourse

LEO A DALY, in association with VJAA, has completed the design for the new School of Public Policy building at the University of Maryland, College Park. A groundbreaking ceremony was held October 29, and construction crews are expected to begin work in November.

The project creates a landmark architectural presence for the school, which is rapidly growing in enrollment and is currently ranked 16th among national public policy programs by U.S. News & World Report. Executive architect LEO A DALY and lead design architect VJAA were selected for the project in 2016 after a competitive, multi-phased Design Excellence procurement process.

“The new School of Public Policy is a highly-visible symbol of the University of Maryland’s dedication to serving the public good, not only in developing the policymakers of tomorrow, but in expanding the policy conversation to the greater university and the world beyond it. This new building will have a transformative effect on the university, establishing a unique platform for collaboration and public discourse woven thoughtfully into the fabric of campus,” said Irena Savakova, RIBA, principal in charge for the project with LEO A DALY.

The four-story building at the heart of campus will bring together – for the first time under one roof – the School’s more than 90 faculty members and over 1000 undergraduates and graduate students, and serve as the headquarters for the Do Good Institute, a campus-wide hub for social innovation, philanthropy and nonprofit leadership. Five state-of-the-art instructional spaces ranging in size from 25 to 150 seats, a library and a rooftop terrace are also included.

“The School of Public Policy is a home for those committed to serving the public good, and who go out and do good in the world every day,” said Robert C. Orr, dean of the School of Public Policy.

The building occupies a prominent site along Baltimore Avenue, the main artery connecting College Park with the neighboring communities and the nation’s capital. Located just steps from the upcoming Purple Line light rail station on Baltimore Avenue, the building will allow students, faculty, staff and alumni to form connections throughout the National Capital Region and beyond.

The design concept is rooted in the spatial typology of the ancient Agora, the birthplace of democratic thought and public discourse. A cascading architectural form follows the natural slope of Chapel Field, forming an elegant edge to one of the signature open spaces on campus and shaping a carefully orchestrated sequence of interior spaces.

Entrances on the east and west connect within a large, communal atrium designed to encourage chance meetings, informal study and interdepartmental collaboration. Layers of academic space are tied together visually and programmatically, creating a series of adaptable, flexible learning environments. Do Good Plaza, a shared outdoor event space on the building’s east side, embraces the neighboring Purple Line station, establishing a welcoming new gateway into campus.

The architecture blends contemporary expressions of transparency and openness with materials and rhythmic elements found in the adjacent Georgian-inspired campus buildings. Brick cladding and white columns engage visually with Lee Hall to the north. The building’s carefully sculpted massing frames views of two historic buildings – Rossborough Inn to the northeast and Memorial Chapel to the southwest – creating a window into the past as a foundation for the future of policymaking.

The sustainably designed building is expected to achieve a LEED Gold rating. Biophilic design will connect occupants to nature, reduce the building’s environmental footprint and provide healthy and productive spaces for work and study.