Open Forum in Educational Design

RMJM looks to the past to design a progressive model for college campuses across the country—with an eye toward sustainability.

Located in the heart of Goucher College’s Baltimore, MD, campus is the new Athenaeum, a groundbreaking facility that is unlike anything most U.S. colleges and universities are building today. Designed by international architecture firm RMJM, the Athenaeum is the new sustainable flagship building on Goucher’s campus, weaving together the various threads of life at the college in one signature building.

The 103,000-square-foot, four-story sustainable building is open 24/7 and features a technologically superior library; a spacious open forum for performances, public discussions, and other events; a café; an art gallery; a center for community service and multicultural affairs; a radio station; an exercise studio; and spaces for conversation, quiet reflection and relaxation.

The design and detailing of the Athenaeum is inspired by the modernist, crafted aesthetic for which the Goucher campus is increasingly well-known. It is clad in glass, stone, redwood, and copper—the predominant materials found in Goucher’s buildings. The interior is constructed from terrazzo, white oak, redwood, carpet, and glass.

Modeled after the amphitheatres of Europe, the Hyman Forum is a wide-open space designed to accommodate various kinds of readings, performances, panel discussions, and other public events. Video monitors around the forum will draw in visitors to watch unfolding world events, films and simulcasts of campus programs. 

“Goucher’s new Athenaeum represents a new type of campus building: the student forum,” says Gordon Hood, RMJM principal and director of the Global Education Studio. “With origins in ancient Greece and Rome, the classical forum focused on promoting [the] exchange of ideas, goods and commerce. This concept has evolved in response to the needs of the millennial generation. At Goucher’s Athenaeum, the forum combines academic and social functions to create a place where creative thought and experience organically intersect.”

The college’s library is its intellectual cornerstone, and Goucher’s new library is at the heart of the Athenaeum. The new library expands the college’s collection capacity to approximately 450,000 volumes. It is fully wired with state-of-the-art equipment, including new computer workstations and digital arts video editing stations in a 24-hour computer lab—reflecting both time-honored and tech-savvy approaches to study and research.

Goucher College and RMJM approached every aspect of the Athenaeum project with an eye toward sustainability. The project, which is expected to receive LEED Silver certification, incorporates a number of sustainable design features, including two green roofs, a rain garden, high-performance glass, recycled materials, and innovative mechanical systems for optimal efficiency.