Vanderbilt University, Commons Center

Nashville, Tennessee

The new LEED gold-certified Commons Center at Vanderbilt University is a vital component of its ambitious building program to expand student housing and campus services, and transform the undergraduate student experience to that of a residential college.

The Commons Center’s proximity to a National Register collection of Classical Revival 1920s buildings arranged ADDITIONAL INFORMATIONCOST PER SQ FT$217.39FEATURED IN2008 Educational InteriorsINTERIOR CATEGORYStudent Centers/Service Areas a very formal UVA-type lawn inspired the building’s design. After col­laborating with the design architect, the university decided that materials needed to match the existing brick and stone of the surrounding structures, but that the building forms and composition of the Commons Center could take liberties to convey a more contemporary feel.

The main dining hall of the Commons Center, the Eatery, is a 550-seat, two-story space. The first floor is the larger space—with two working EcoSmart flue-less fireplaces and floor-to-ceiling win­dows offering views of the dining patio and the campus beyond. The upper level is accessed through both the first-floor dining room and the building’s main atrium stairs.

The 6,000-square-foot servery and production space features five gallery platforms, based on a Euro-kitchen design: Chef’s Table; Brick Oven; Grill; Wok; and Salad Bar, Soup & Sizzle Station. This approach allows for flexibility in food concepts and menus.

A 24/7 mini-market/cafe, Common Grounds, is on the first floor and opens to the main reception area and seating with a series of computer stations. The first floor also has a large, open social space on the south facade that looks out onto the new quadrangle. A separate, more intimate lounge is in the southwest corner of the first floor and of­fers a cozy atmosphere for gatherings and study groups.

The second floor of the Commons Center is home to a fitness center and post office—both de­signed to be satellite units of the main campus resources, yet still accommodate the needs of this devel­oping area of campus. There are also administrative offices, meeting rooms, resource groups for academic assistance, a lounge, and access to the upper level of the main dining room.