OZ Architecture designs Nancy Richardson Design Center at CSU

Garage doors open to an outdoor “oasis” where students are encouraged to work outdoors or engage in critiques.

OZ Architecture led design on Colorado State University’s Nancy Richardson Design Center. The $19.2 million, state-of-the-art project covers 45,000 square feet and will further CSU’s mission as a national leader in design. Salt Design in Fort Collins assisted OZ with the design while Saunders Construction was the general contractor.

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“The project advances CSU’s mission as a national leader in design by combining cutting edge technology with spaces that inspire collaboration and hands-on learning,” said David Shafer, who heads OZ’s education practice. “The building supports multidisciplinary learning and professional development that fosters innovation.

“Another important aspect of the facility is its orientation toward the innovation community of Fort Collins, engaging students with local businesses for mentorship as they develop and bring their ideas to industry,” Shafer said.

The RDC serves as a creative space for students and faculty in the university’s interior architecture and design, apparel and merchandising, landscape architecture, art, engineering, product development, entrepreneurship and construction management programs.

The building’s site plan was intended to encourage circulation patterns that draw students, faculty and campus visitors into the site and through the building, sparking their curiosity about the innovations occurring within the facility, according to OZ.

RDC is located on the south end of the campus between the Visual Arts Building and across from the new CSU stadium; it includes interior design studios, a lighting studio, a color lab, metal and wood fabrication labs, a prototyping lab with 3D printers and laser cutters, maker-spaces, classrooms, and an exterior pedestrian portal through the heart of the building coined as “Inspiration Alley.”

“’Inspiration Alley’ is an important axis that cuts through the building, allowing visual and physical access from the stadium through the building toward the center of campus,” Shafer said. “The ideation labs and design exchange line the alley, giving passersby a view into the exciting activities within the building.”

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OZ Architecture designed these spaces with communal elements such as garage doors that open to an outdoor “oasis” where students are encouraged to work outdoors or engage in critiques.

The design inspiration began with the concept that the Nancy Richardson Design Center design become a “heart” of the campus, according to Shafer.

“The exterior is a beacon that can be seen across campus and is a central gathering space. The interior design encourages collaboration and showcases the innovation happening in the studios,” he said.

The building also has exposed building systems throughout.

“This didactic design approach is an important part of the design philosophy,” Shafer said. “The building itself was conceived as a teaching tool for students.”

The design school also houses a senior design lab that was developed with a full glass wall allowing visibility into the design process and creating a continuum of inspired ideas.

Published in the Sept. 18-Oct. 1, 2019, issue of CREJ.

Kris Oppermann Stern is publisher and editor of Building Dialogue, a Colorado Real Estate Journal publication, and editor of CREJ's construction, design, and engineering section, including news and bylined articles. Building Dialogue is a quarterly, four-color magazine that caters specifically to the AEC industry, including features on projects and people, as well as covering trends…