Shapiro Campus Center
Brandeis University

Brandeis, with its modernist tradition and postwar campus, was a natural setting for our Shapiro center design. We placed the building at the university’s geographic center, where two major pedestrian pathways cross. Our site plan created a courtyard, gardens, plus an expansive green—a central outdoor gathering place that the campus had lacked. The site plan also links the student center with the college’s Rose Art Museum, a large theater, administrative offices, and the new Carl and Ruth Shapiro Admissions Center, which we completed six years later.

Our intent was to invest this hub of student life with vitality and inviting warmth for students who seek out its lounges, café, and club meeting rooms. After extensive conversations with the community, including students, faculty, administrative staff and trustees, we developed a design that apportioned the large square-footage requirements into two wings that connect through a three-story atrium. The decision to break up the massing—rather than create one large mass – allowed us to open and energize the interior spaces with abundant natural light, particularly in upstairs offices and meeting rooms—a welcome antidote to New England winters.

We held forums with students, faculty, administrative staff and trustees to capture their ideas for the program and the development of the site. One theme that emerged was a desire for the building to be transparent in ways that would allow its occupants to experience the vibrancy of student life within.

Rose’s design for Brandeis has been developed to mark a conspicuous place within the campus… By shaping the plan around established patterns of pedestrian circulation and forming spaces that respond to the character of the surrounding buildings, the design successfully captures the spirit of academic life in the twenty-first century.

Brian Carter and Annette Lecuyer, All American: Innovation in American Architecture

Campus Circulation Diagram

Ground Floor Plan

Second Floor Plan

The Shapiro Campus Center clearly is fulfilling its mandate to serve not merely as the geographic but also the functional and perceptual heart of campus. On a recent visit, the place was bustling: The library was standing room only; the atrium was hosting a poster sale; the café was packed. Administrators and students enthusiastically described how much they liked the building and how well it accommodated activities ranging from peer counseling to tango lessons. And one junior was especially effusive: ‘I practically live in this building,’ she said. Brandeis and its architect have given her a great place to live in.

Nancy Levinson, Architectural Record, 2005

At the core of the building is an airy three-story atrium, which is crisscrossed by catwalks that connect the building’s upper levels. A bold copper-paneled stair contains spacious landings for chance encounters or people-watching.