Carl and Ruth Shapiro Admissions Center Brandeis University

The building houses all aspects of the Admissions Department program and acts as a gateway to the campus for prospective students and their families. As the first stop on campus for most prospective students, the building serves to orient visitors by establishing and framing views of the campus.

Programmatic Challenges:
Envisioned as an essential element in all recruitment activities, the new building was expected to embrace the institutions values of openness, diversity, and academic excellence. The building program includes a multimedia
presentation room, several comfortable waiting lounges, interview suites, display areas, and a financial aid office. The program also includes back-of-house spaces for the preparation of admissions materials and the collection and evaluation of student applications.

Site and Context:
The site for the project was occupied by an aging building that served as the admissions center. This building was demolished, and a large parking area was transformed into a campus landscapeimproving circulation from the south end of the campus to the central and north parts of the campus. This new landscape links dormitories to the rest of the campus. Student circulation is marked by the path system, and the new landscape encourages the mingling of prospective and current students. The building form responds to the new courtyard and, along with two existing buildings, reinforces the edges of this new collegiate space.

Collaborative Design:
Our approach to the design process was integrated and inclusive. The project team included the Dean of Admissions, admissions staff, the Director of Capital Projects, the construction manager, the owners representative, the A-E team, and representatives of the Universitys physical plant department. The project team participated in all aspects of the process, analyzing and guiding the project from a broad spectrum of viewpoints, including sustainability and life-cycle costs.

Construction and Materials:
Throughout the 15-month construction period, it was essential that no operational hiatus was experienced by the Admissions Department. The project required the construction of a temporary admissions office in a nearby existing building. The construction sequence began with the creation of a partial basement level to rehouse an IT hub, which served half of the campus and was located within the footprint of the proposed building. This hub was heated and cooled throughout construction, providing uninterrupted service to the community. In order to diminish the overall cost and schedule, the design used existing basement areas from the pre-existing structure, eliminating the need for extensive blasting and rock removal. Special care was given to the detailing of the exterior envelope in an effort to create a maintenance-free building. Exterior wall mock-ups of alternate construction assemblies were erected, water tested, and reviewed by the team envelope consultant.

Materials such as limestone, American sycamore paneling, artisan plastering, and acoustical fabric ceilings were utilized. The design was tightly coordinated with the structure and mechanical systems. In particular, the chiller is hidden in a mechanical well on the second floor, as the roof of the building is visible from the north. Structural issues were an important facet of the project, especially in the areas of the south exterior cantilever and the atrium space. Lateral bracing was also carefully analyzed, allowing for large glass expanses free of lateral structural elements.

The University was most interested in energy efficiency and the reduction of the facilitys carbon footprint. The architect and the mechanical engineer collaborated on a DOE energy model that influenced the form and orientation of the project, as well as the wall construction and location and amount of glazing. Mechanical equipment was selected for efficiency and low-maintenance. For example, carefully detailed casework, which conceals unattractive linear heating units, provides comfortable seating in the waiting areas and custom workstations on the upper level; the casework design effectively directs heat up and allows full maintenance access as needed. In addition, the buildings large condensing unit and unsightly exhaust fans are located in an exterior space the mechanical well on the second floor. The exterior walls of the mechanical well are fully integrated into the faade so that the large unit and fans are hidden from sight, while providing easy access without a need for a ladder or roof hatch for maintenance staff. The building met the LEED Silver design requirements.


Project Type


415 South Street, Waltham, 02454,