Narrative Box 9

7 – Continuity

There’s no substitute for institutional knowledge. When you know how an organization works, you know how to solve its problems — and how not to. We often pilot new ideas or advance organizational goals with small projects that build cohesive benefits over time.

At University of Massachusetts-Amherst, we evaluated Whitmore Hall, a cast-in-place concrete “brutalist” building that serves as the main administration and student service building. Our study looked comprehensively at the program offerings in the building, and how better to arrange these to improve workflow and student engagement. The undercurrent of the study was a focus on the image of the building as a concrete behemoth, plagued by the environmental challenges of buildings of this era. Studies focused on daylighting strategies, covered courtyards, removal of berms to open up walls, improvements to envelope and dated building systems all pointed to a more sustainable model for Whitmore’s next 50 years of life, and by extension, the lives of other brutalist buildings on the campus.