Richardson Design Center construction encourages new beginnings

Natalia Sperry

Digital rendering of a new design center, with glass sides and modern look.
A rendering of the Richardson Design Center. (Photo courtesy of OZ Architecture)

Design and merchandise students can anticipate moving into a new building for their classes within the next academic year.

The project for the Richardson Design Center started in 2013, led by Nancy Richardson, a CSU alumna of the class of 1982 with a degree in interior design.

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Richardson, who co-founded OtterBox and Blue Ocean Enterprises with husband Curt Richardson, said that students and faculty were involved in the vision of an iconic building early on. That idea of collaboration, inspired by the Richardson’s experience with constructing the OtterBox facilities in Fort Collins, drives much of the project’s vision. 

Laura Malinin, assistant professor and program coordinator of the design and merchandising department, shared the four concepts of the project – intersectionality, transparency, heart and inspiration – along with the architectural design concept plans with students and faculty members of the department at the ceremonial groundbreaking  Sept. 27

“The building is at an angle, and that’s very intentional … the idea (of intersections) is to draw people in,” Malinin said. “There was a lot of interest in having a building that students felt belonged to them … a building with heart.”

The facility is a collaboration between Saunders Construction, Oz Architecture, Salt Design and the Colorado State University facility team. Although the design development phase is expected to be completed within one to two weeks, construction of the facility’s foundation is ready to begin.

The current construction schedule anticipates completion in December 2018, with the department of design and merchandising moving into the building in January 2019.  At that time Alyesworth Hall, current home to the design program, will be demolished and the location will be repurposed for multi-use space, according to Dean Jeff McCubbin of the College of Health and Human Sciences. 

Richardson and her husband Curt pledged $8.1 million to the design facility, whose total cost will be $16.5 million. The University has indicated that the remaining funds are to be raised though donations and is offering the opportunity to name interior spaces. Malinin also indicated that the department will be writing grants in order to fund design equipment for student labs.  

Currently, the third floor of the building is not within the scope of the project due to a lack of funding. Malinin emphasized that the project is still evolving and encourages community input as the team wraps up the design development phase. 

The building, which is now targeting LEED Silver certification, originally aimed to achieve Gold certification as the minimum standard of this program, according to early design plans released in 2015. Malinin indicated they are trying to design for WELL Certification, focusing on constructing  infrastructure in place to be able to do that, calling such sustainability the future of design for healthy people.

The construction will entail two major buildings, with a variety of spaces for students including an oasis courtyard, outside display pad for student projects, and “Inspiration Alley,” a space that runs between the two buildings, where wide windows will allow for passerby to glimpse into ongoing projects. Inside will hold a host of design labs aimed at encouraging exploration, such as an ideation lab, space for design prototyping, a resource library and a wood and metal shop. Though the facility is built primarily to support students of the design program, it will be open to everyone. 

“We started thinking about all the different people who could use this space,” Richardson said. “Design touches everybody.”

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Students like Jordan Rodriquez, a senior interior design major, said she was excited at the new level of collaboration the Richardson Center will facilitate. 

“Being able to work with other design students … and just see how everything overlaps is really exciting,” Rodriquez said. “Right now, interior design is separated from (other disciplines), even though we’re all creative minds.” 

Part of Richardson’s vision focuses on an element beyond the building itself: a new curriculum to be taught within it. Dean McCubbin indicated that curriculum planning has been on-going, with faculty sessions this past summer and in addition to ongoing student focus groups. This new curriculum would entail a potential three-course sequence certificate program, which McCubbin hopes will drive students from multiple majors. 

“The curriculum actually mimics the concept of the building itself,” said Stephanie Clemons, a professor in the interior design program who worked closely on the new curriculum. “There’s this importance of intersection and inspiration, so that concept … that threads through all details goes right down into the curriculum.” 

It is that concept of universality that drives much of the vision of the Richardson Design Center.  

“The grand vision is that the CSU design center would become a nationally and world recognized center … with a superior plan and location,” Richardson said. “This building is for you. This is my handing the baton to (the next generation of design students).” 

Collegian news reporter Natalia Sperry can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @Natalia_Sperry.