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University of Massachusetts Amherst - Commonwealth Honors College

Connecting a campus and a community

Amherst, Massachusetts
William Rawn Associates, Architects Inc.

After operating in scattered locations across campus, Honors College wanted to bring its students together to better define their sense of community. The first challenge came in helping choose a site. The best location—one next to the campus core—posed a major challenge: a 35-foot grade change.

Our team turned that potential problem into an asset, using the topography to create tiers that unify the Honors community, while staying connected to the main campus. Each level has a courtyard designed to have its own character, but they’re similar enough to feel unified. Groups can gather for outdoor classes on the granite seat walls and then follow the main spine to and from the campus core.

The courtyards and pathways include permeable pavers and a rain garden to help manage stormwater, contributing to LEED Silver certification. Integration is what the project was all about—creating a community for Honors students without losing the connection to campus.

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