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Playmakers' TheatreCampus building types refers to types of building forms that may be used as a paradigm for future buildings. There are many of these types on the Chapel Hill campus.

Up through the completion of Polk Place with Dey Hall, Carolina’s buildings and grounds followed the principles of a balance of simple building forms creating clear outdoor spaces. The buildings constructed over this period, while not identical, shared a set of rules concerning their composition and type.

Unfortunately, during the modern era, the Chapel Hill campus grew with little regard to these original principles. Many buildings, particularly those built through the 1960s and 1970s, did not help form outdoor spaces and failed to consider the architectural traditions of Carolina’s campus.

Sensitivity to these issues has risen in the recent past and will hopefully become the norm. These guidelines intend to promote consistent, quality design by establishing shared rules while encouraging creativity.

  • Siting – Buildings should follow a type that will allow for flexible, simple plans while ensuring the creation of outdoor spaces.
  • Massing and Scale – Massing of new buildings should complement surroundings. Massing should reflect and reinforce the scale of the open space it fronts. Extremely large buildings should break down mass into a composition of well-scaled parts. Building facades should follow the horizontal and vertical rhythms of pre-war buildings. The objective is not to replicate old buildings but to create a campus of buildings with complementary rhythms and scale.
  • Fenestration and Materials – Carolina’s new buildings should include elements that reflect the traditions of its most beloved buildings. Once again, the intent is not to copy these elements but to draw inspiration from them in creating forms unique to the University. The variety of available elements will yield limitless possibilities for future buildings.
  • Volume is elongated and rectangular.
  • Entry is generally at center of long face, although entry on short face is possible.
  • Buildings reinforce geometry of quad by aligning eaves and ridge lines (not gable) with the open space.
  • Central corridor gives access to rooms.
  • Typical width is 45-90 feet.
  • Typical length is 120-300 feet.
  • Design may accommodate housing, classrooms, laboratories, administrative activities and a wide variety of other functions.
  • Edge-defining qualities of the bar building, along with the centralized type (see later description), form the two essential building blocks of campus architecture from which all other types are derived.
North Campus Housing, UNC-Chapel Hill
Aycock-Graham Residence Halls, UNC-Chapel Hill
  • “Massing in Context” diagram illustrates how the long faces of the bar type create a discernable edge, thereby defining a space.
  • “Massing Variations” diagram shows that hierarchy can be established through design of entry: one side of long face or both sides, one side of short side or both.
  • The precedent building at the University of Delaware shows a bar building defining the edge of a space. The entry gives visual weight to the corner, displaying an asymmetrical facade.
Massing in Context
Massing Variations
University of Delaware
University of Delaware
University of Delaware
  • Buildings are sited prominently within a quadrangle.
  • Buildings often are heroic.
  • Buildings are formed using circles, squares and rectangles.
  • Prominent entry is in center of facade.
  • Buildings often contain large internal assembly (for examples, a chapel, lecture hall, gymnasium or dining hall).
  • When this style is combined with the bar building design, an unlimited variety of building forms can be created.
  • The dome is a quintessential roof form for the centralized type but by no means necessary.
Wilson Library, UNC-Chapel Hill
Wilson Library, UNC-Chapel Hill
  • “Massing in Context” diagram illustrates axial position within quad.
  • A typical floor plan shows small, cellular rooms wrapping around a large public room in the middle of the building.
  • “Context Variations” diagram shows the centralized building as (A) the terminus to an axis, (B) the interface between two quads and (C) mitigating between four quads.
  • Precedent 1 at Oxford University exemplifies a centralized building like variation C; Precedent 2 at Columbia University exemplifies variation A; Precedent 3 at Princeton University exemplifies a successful modern example.
Massing in Context
Context Variations
Oxford University
Columbia University
Princeton University
  • Type is created by constructing a series of bar buildings, often resulting in “letter”-shaped buildings.
  • Wings form outdoor courtyards that can range from small and intimate to large and spacious.
  • Massing allows for relatively large and/or tall buildings as well as relatively small and/or short buildings.
  • Siting of buildings may be relatively heroic in fronting a space with an outdoor entry court (see Dey Hall plan); may alternatively be edge-defining by fronting a space
    with the long side of one of the wings (see Dey Hall photograph).
  • Generally, footprint accommodates central corridors for classrooms or residence rooms. Ample interior natural light is critical.
  • Heights of each bar may differ but symmetry typically prevails in the overall massing.
Dey Hall, UNC-Chapel Hill
Dey Hall, UNC-Chapel Hill
  • “Massing in Context” diagram illustrates in (A) the “letter” as terminus of a single axis, while in (B) as a receptor of two axes.
  • “Massing Variations” diagram shows the large number of shapes made possible by combining bar elements.
  • Precedent 1 at Emory University exemplifies variation A in creating a courtyard space in front of the main entry.
Massing in Context
Massing Variations
Emory University
Emory University
  • Buildings are usually formed by combining the edge-defining and centralized types.
  • Type allows limitless variety of “building-block” configurations.
  • Type may address a quadrangle as edge-defining, centralized or a combination of both.
  • Type has dimensions that vary widely.
  • Type is able to house complex programs.
  • Type accommodates specialized activities that require very large footprints.
  • Type enables many activities to be located near one another for maximum efficiency.
  • Scale and proportion are of primary importance.
  • Massiveness of building should be mitigated by elements that reflect the human scale of the campus.
  • A typical strategy for masking mass is to use a frontispiece (often an edge-defining type).
  • Siting should conceal as much mass as possible.
Kenan-Flagler Business School, UNC-Chapel Hill
Kenan-Flagler Business School, UNC-Chapel Hill
  • “Massing in Context” diagram shows asymmetrical massing while parts relate to adjacent spaces.
  • “Plan in Context” diagram shows the potential for fronting and defining different spaces. (The left facade is on axis with the quad, and a forecourt to the entry is formed. The lower facade forms a larger automobile forecourt. On the right is a service court and an internal court is on upper portion of the plan.)
  • The precedent at Carnegie Mellon University illustrates how the building may front many different spaces with a variety of appropriately scaled faces.
Massing in Context
Plan in Context
Carnegie Mellon University
Carnegie Mellon University
Carnegie Mellon University
  • Type can be bar, letter, centralized or composite with a bridge included as an integral part of the building. (A new bridge may also connect directly to existing building, creating a continuous pedestrian path, as in the above example. In this case, the connection between the bridge and building should be as seamless as possible.)
  • The building itself may span the void or the bridge may span the void as an extension of the building.
  • If the bridge acts as an extension, it may run parallel to the length of the building and attach to the long side of the bar; it may also run perpendicular to the main facade and act as an extension of the main entry.
  • The bridge becomes an important part of the building and often acts as a colonnade on the main elevation.
  • New buildings that have bridges as potential additions should encourage a seamless connection in their design.
Kenan-Flagler Business School and Bridge, UNC-Chapel Hill
Kenan-Flagler Business School and Bridge, UNC-Chapel Hill
  • “Bridge Types” diagram shows three ways in which a building may mitigate a steep-level change:
    1. The building itself may act as a bridge, simply spanning the change in level;
    2. The change in level may be spanned by a building extension, such as a pedestrian arcade as shown in the diagram; and
    3. The building may mediate between a level change as in the diagram. (An upper-level entry on one side allows for a ground-floor exit on the other side.)
  • “Circulation Methods” diagram illustrates three ways in which pedestrian circulation may occur in relation to the mass of the building:
    1. The circulation path may be an outdoor “street” with the mass of the building broken into two sides that line the street;
    2. A side arcade may act as the primary entry or as part of a larger campus walkway system; and
    3. The main circulation path of the building may be a public circulation path.
  • The precedent at the University of Virginia is an example of Bridge Type A with an outdoor pedestrian arcade similar to Section 2.
Bridge Types
Circulation Methods
University of Virginia
University of Virginia
University of Virginia
  • Buildings are generally sited in denser areas of campus.
  • Because of size, buildings should be sited in a way that complements neighboring structures, with tallest buildings clustered to concentrate mass.
  • As with previous types, buildings should be sited to form outdoor spaces or define a street edge.
  • Massing should break down buildings into smaller parts, through the use of:
    • base, middle and top;
    • tower elements; and
    • vertical divisions or bays (central, intermediate and end).
  • The base should reflect the human scale of pedestrians.
  • Monumental openings can give the appearance of fewer floors.
  • A mix of frame and punched windows in the facade add variety, interest and hierarchy.
  • Laboratory building designs should locate public spaces, offices and circulation on the perimeter of the floor plan to animate the main facade with human traffic, and blank facades should be minimized.
EPA Building, UNC-Chapel Hill
EPA Building, UNC-Chapel Hill
The diagram is a good example of a building exhibiting a clear base, middle and top. Each part has a human scale, making the building more inviting. The precedent at Oregon Health Science University is a good example of siting and massing. The building is sited to create an outdoor courtyard that unites three separate buildings. The two-story edicule is a very clear entry, and the rear facade has been given due attention as well. Windows at the elevator lobby can help to bring more light into laboratory buildings. The stacks at the top have been made a pleasing part of the composition. They also help to describe what kind of building it is.
Existing Tower
Large expanses of blank facade
Horizontal Divisions
Articulation of Entry and Top
Creates hierarchy of base and top as well as central bay
Informs composition of middle
Articulation of Middle
Wall vs. frame reading
Reinforces tripartite division vertically and horizontally
Oregon Health Science University
Oregon Health Science University
Oregon Health Science University

Facade Composition: Base-Middle-Top

Short building – has clear and simple articulation of base, middle and top.
Medium building – allows for complexity in articulation of base, middle and top.
Tall building – has greater complexity in articulation of base, middle and top and allows for multiple readings of tripartite division.
Taller and bigger buildings benefit from a layering of compositional divisions both vertically and horizontally. The basic tripartite division of base, middle and top may be further subdivided into smaller parts to create a more dynamic facade. The three basic divisions’ proportions can then change relative to the overall facade composition without compromising scale.

For example, the base of the medium building is a full story taller than that of the short building, but the entry portico is the same height. The overall base is taller, but the entry has maintained a pleasing scale. Proportions of divisions and scale of elements within those divisions are critical to composing a pleasing facade.

Facade Variations

Gardner Hall – Wall vs. Frame
Wall vs. Frame Variation
Articulated Frame
Articulated Frame Variation
Wall with Grouped Windows
Grouped Window Variation
Wall with Punched Openings
Punched Opening Variation
The above facades are all derivations of Gardner Hall (uppermost left diagram). Many elevations may be produced by simply transforming existing types. Individual elements or styles are less important than basic proportions, scales and rhythms. This exercise is very useful for new buildings where a strong context exists.


Preferred Models

South Building, UNC-Chapel Hill
Wilson Library, UNC-Chapel Hill
Carroll Hall, UNC-Chapel Hill

To Be Avoided

Brinkhous-Bullitt Building, UNC-Chapel Hill
Health Sciences Library, UNC-Chapel Hill
Craige & Hinton James Residence Halls, UNC-Chapel Hill
The building blocks of any campus are bar buildings and centralized buildings. Combining these types may yield regular or irregular forms of the composite type. These simple forms should be the basis for siting new projects on campus. Generally, all buildings should be sited perpendicular or parallel to the spaces they form. Massing of buildings should reflect and reinforce the overall scale of the open space that the buildings front and should step up or down to adjust to context and topography.

By their nature, bar buildings (those in the plan that form a simple rectangle) are modest in scale while centralized buildings are more heroic. Facades generally reflect this notion: Bar buildings have a relatively consistent and neutral look across the facade and should be sufficiently planar and continuous to form and emphasize the spaces they define. The ground floor should be differentiated from the upper floors, with the possibility of an “attic” story. Centralized buildings tend to have much greater hierarchy, often a tripartite division vertically across the facade, end bays and central entry bay, as well as base, middle and top.