Toward an architecture of place: Moving beyond iconic to practical

Taking a look at Pierce College’s architecture.



Sarah Balough


A sense of place is of fundamental value to people everywhere—in every city, every town, every neighborhood and every culture, for all ages.This is what can be recognized instinctively by all people; it’s a fundamental reality that often is overlooked.

Pierce College Puyallup has been providing students with higher education and opportunities since its opening in 1990, but often the buildings that house such learning are overlooked or underappreciated.

Architecture has come to be viewed in two ways; either as an art form, or in the mass production of structures for purpose. However, when these two views are combined into a reality, then successful architectural design is completed. While aesthetics is important, interaction with the building may present itself as the more dominant requirement.

The campus of Pierce College Puyallup was one of these string of buildings that was designed for those who would occupy it on a daily basis. While architectural design is interwoven, the overall purpose is practicality. However, appreciation for artisan work can be viewed on the campus and embodies more elegance that the original grounds of Pierce College, which was a formerly abandoned Albertsons grocery store.

The school was built for practicality, and for this reason the definitive design of the overall buildings, largely those built at the earlier part of the school’s development, are those of load-bearing construction. These are the buildings on the campus that are largely constructed of brick. The Gaspard Administration building as well as the Brouillet Library and Science building are the oldest buildings on the campus. They can be used as examples of these load-bearing constructions. These structures tend to have fewer windows and other openings, as indicated in the administration building in which windows and other openings, besides for the initial glass entry, are all but obsolete. This is because the method dose not readily allow for support of material above a void, like a window opening. Yet, it would be a mistake to think that basic structures produce basic results.

While the library and administration buildings have been designed for practicality, they have somewhat been ornamented with embellishments that serve practical and design purposes. The columns that stand erect outside of the administration building are examples of Doric, that serve the purpose of artifice and support. The entry way of the administration building that opens to the inside court yard is embellished with that is practically an exaggerated post-and–lintel. This is the structure in which support is given to a horizontal crosspiece by way of two or more vertical posts. In the case of the administration building, this horizontal lintel has been altered into a triangular shape and is supported by columns that could best be described as Doric. This is only the best description because to be truly Doric the columns should be closer to each other to bear more weight.

While considered less modern in design as compared to its sister campus Pierce College Steilacoom, the structures at Pierce College Puyallup reflect more a modern approach to building style than traditional or classical. This is a modern building practice that can be viewed in the College Center and the Arts and Allied Health building, particularly in the openness of the structure.

The AAH has been given great praise for being what is considered a “green” building. This comes from the use of timber that was cleared for the construction of the site in the use of the ceiling erection. What defines the AAH as considered a unique modern structure is the way the cleared lumber was utilized. In most cases a wood frame is erected and used for guidelines in the laying of the foundation and a support system for insulating the structure. Instead the downed lumber was used for the paneling of the building’s ceiling.

The AAH unites multiple disciplines into a hybrid facility that provides the campus and the surrounding community with a variety of opportunities. And like the programs offered in the building, its architectural design is also that of a hybrid.

This 61,600 square foot Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Gold Certified building, incorporates a variety of sustainable strategies. Strategies that gained it recognition with the U.S. Green Building Council, an organization that encourages environmental sustainability in development. These sustainable strategies include: a displacement ventilation system in the main theater, radiant and chilled slabs, on-site storm water retention, water-saving low flow and waterless fixtures, healthy and renewable materials and finishes, dashboard displays of energy saving and a green housekeeping programs.

The buildings pre-design and final design were carried out by the architectural firm Opisi, which worked with the Shalleck Collaborative Theater Consultant group on the project.

This collaboration produced a facility that could house the college’s music, drama, art and nursing program. Overall, the AAH is a blended facility that required a collaborative planning process with faculty from multiple disciplines, promoting overlap and shared use of many spaces.

However, the AAH isn’t the only campus facility that is ornamented with unique features. The library/science building as well as the College Center both share similar features, which is substantial roof work in the form of glass geodesic domes. However, like the majority of the campus these inter-workings of glass and metal don’t follow a classical framework. Instead of the traditional dome shape that encompasses many of the ceilings of European cathedrals, the two buildings instead have triangular designs. A design that was almost never erected in the classical era of architecture due to structural inadequacies that would cause premature structural collapse, instead the more load bearing dome shape was utilized. However, this requirement for structural support has been offset by advanced that allowed for the usage of triangular glass structures; much like the Louve Pyramid, the glass structure that serves as the entryway to the Louvre museum.

The campus is spread out more than 85 acres of land and serves as the location of seven buildings, all having their own architectural design, purpose and the occasional ornamentation, however, all were designed with the intention of practicality.

The Puyallup Post is the award-winning news media of Pierce College Puyallup in Puyallup, Washington. Copyright The Puyallup Post 2018. Find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Youtube @thepuyalluppost

Toward an architecture of place: Moving beyond iconic to practical

by admin time to read: 4 min