Research shows that building strong friendships in the first year of college is crucial for students to succeed in the rest of their college career. This new residential community for first-year students is designed to encourage socialization and help students experience a sense of rootedness.
Prominently located adjacent to the Grand Avenue entrance of the Cal Poly San Luis Obispo campus, the complex consists of seven three- to five-story residence hall buildings for up to 1,475 students, as well as an adjacent four-level parking structure. With views opening to the ring of the Seven Sisters hilltops that wrap the campus, student study spaces provide quiet places outside of the dorm-style rooms. Living rooms dedicated to communities of 50 students each are linked inward to vertical circulation to encourage interaction among students. The living room spaces open outward to outdoor courtyards and circulation routes. A mailroom, a recreation center, offices, an admissions welcome center, and a food market wrap a structured student parking deck. Most of the buildings have a generously sized central staircase to foster spontaneous connections.
To give students an even deeper sense of rootedness in the local landscape, the university partnered with the local Northern Chumash tribe to provide direction for creating environmental graphics for each of the residence halls. These graphics tell the stories of the landscape of seven Northern Chumash villages along the Central Coast, including flora and fauna. Each residence hall draws its name from a tribal village: elewexe, nipumu?, tilhini, ts??tqaw?, tš?lkukun?tš, ts?pxatu, and ts?tkawayu.
Interior wall graphics on concrete walls tell each building's main landscape story as well as individual substories that add depth. Within each building, every floor has its own mural reflecting elements of the main story (ground floor) and substories (upper floors). The murals were applied with stencils and hand-painting. All graphics were approved by the Northern Chumash tribe before work commenced. The goal is to increase students' respect for the land and its ecosystems, for each other, and for the cultural heritage of the place they live.
lessNestled on California's central coast, Cal Poly's new residential community for 1,475 first-year university students consists of seven three- to five-story residence hall buildings, and an adjacent four-level parking structure. The new complex connects students both to each other and to the adjacent residential community. A deep connection to place comes from a partnership with the local Northern Chumash tribe, yak tit?u tit?u yak tilhini, to provide direction for creating unique experiential graphics for each of the residence halls.
The design team worked closely with representatives of the yak tit?u tit?u yak tilhini in two visioning sessions to determine the direction of the artwork. They settled on telling stories, centered around the surrounding landscape of seven yak tit?u tit?u yak tilhini villages along the Central Coast; focusing on their deep rooted ties to the land by celebrating local flora and fauna. The group also developed landscape story identifiers to define each of the seven residence halls and also represent each village by name: elewexe, nipumu?, tilhini, ts??tqaw?, tš?lkukun?tš, ts?pxatu, and ts?tkawayu.
Interior murals are painted on bare concrete walls to tell each building's primary landscape story as well as several secondary stories that add depth. For example, for Building ts?tkawayu, the main story is "rabbit's den," with substories of wild flowers and California poppies, Tule elk and pronghorn antelope, red-tailed hawks and golden eagles, condors, and raptors and northern harriers.
Within each building, every floor has its own mural along the main interior circulation path. To tie together all of the murals in a building, the design team created an abstract pattern for each residence hall, based on yak tit?u tit?u yak tilhini basket patterns; and integrated them as supporting elements within each mural. The environmental graphics for each residence rely on three colors, distinct for each building and chosen based on landscape colors that the yak tit?u tit?u yak tilhini associates with each village. Students from the university's art department collaborated with a painter, and used stencils to hand-paint the murals on the concrete.
As a result of the working relationship with the yak tit?u tit?u yak tilhini, local plant species were also integrated into the landscape design, according to their recommendations. This was accompanied by localized signage, produced by the design team, that annotates and describes its tribal significance to incoming students. Before the work commenced, the yak tit?u tit?u yak tilhini gathered with the team for final review and approval of the graphics.
The goal is for students to discover and build connections not only to their own residence hall, but also to the yak tit?u tit?u yak tilhini people who have lived and will live in this area for many generations, ultimately increasing students' respect for the land and its ecosystems, for each other, and for the cultural heritage of the place they live.