Two alumni of Cornell’s College of Architecture, Art and Planning have built on their undergraduate education to design a sustainable graduate student housing project at Princeton University.
Described by its creators as a series of “carefully-placed buildings located within the woodlands,” the recently built Lakeside Graduate Student Housing was designed in 2015 by Christopher Alt ’94 and Christiana Moss ’94.
Moss told The Sun in an interview that their goal was to encourage Princeton graduate students to engage with the natural landscape and help them feel included in their community.
“Sometimes the graduate students do feel a little underserved, and this particular community hadn’t felt that they were an integral part of campus,” Moss said. “So, part of the master plan was to make a real community for the graduate students.”
While creating the project, the alumni drew upon what they had learned at Cornell. For example, Moss recalled being taught the importance of the horizon in landscapes.
She said that studying architecture at Cornell was often an applied experience because many of the concepts taught in AAP are exemplified in the buildings and layouts of Cornell’s campus.
Alt explained that the word “ma” of Studio Ma, the architecture firm co-founded by Alt and Moss and selected to develop the housing project, is a Japanese word that means the “space between things.” The Arts Quad at Cornell, Alt told The Sun, was very influential because it perfectly represents that space between buildings on campus. Alt said he wanted to carry this concept over to the Lakeside buildings at Princeton.
“It’s a very much experiential kind of space,” Alt said. “The experience of walking around the site of Lakeside is when you really start to understand how all the pieces come together.”
Moss also explained that the duo designed the buildings to follow sustainable practices and integrate the campus with nature, including Lake Carnegie.
“The development of this site was a great opportunity to connect to the lake and have buildings oriented in such a way that the spaces actually acknowledge the lake,” Moss said.
Princeton put into place a carbon reduction goal right before the inception of the Lakeside project, and Moss noted that the project would embrace all of Princeton’s environmental aims. For example, the buildings include a series of rain guards that filter rainwater into the lake to create a restorative landscape and face east-to-west to increase exposure to the sun for solar energy.
Alt and Moss also placed geothermal wells underneath the parking garage, which generate the heating and cooling mechanisms for all of the buildings. More than 300 wells sit nearly 500 feet below the surface of the ground, capturing warmth from the Earth and circulating it throughout heat pumps in each of the Lakeside apartments.
“In our own work, we really do strive for high performing buildings,” Moss said. “Buildings that give back more than they take.”
Once the project was completed, Alt and Moss were pleasantly surprised by how much the landscape and its restorative properties contributed to the success of the buildings.
“The aesthetics of it are very much in dialogue with the campus,” Moss said.