The Lofts of Washington University

St. Louis, Missouri

Five blocks away from the main campus, on a brownfield site along a bustling commercial strip, The Lofts of Washington University create an environmentally sound student-housing center integrated flawlessly into the fabric of St. Louis. The project reinvigorates a former gas station site on the Delmar Loop, which was named one of one of 10 Great Streets in America by the American Planning Association.

“The Lofts helps to educate students and the greater public about sustainable practices, while furthering the goals of the university and providing an example of design excellence and sustainable leadership,” says Jamie Kolker, Assistant Vice Chancellor of Campus Planning. 

Lofts of Washington University St. Louis students and landscape
The design promotes an active street-life. Source: William Rawn Associates.

The Lofts includes five buildings with 231 residences for as many as 600 students, plus a roof terrace, a green, courtyards, and several retail stores facing a primary commercial street. A network of public spaces includes a pedestrian mews that connects the buildings to each other and to the neighborhood.

Contemporary south-facing glass-fronted buildings on the Delmar Loop provide thermal solar heating while echoing the shape and scale of nearby historic buildings. The facades promote transparency and connection to the street, shaded by perforated metal sunshades— a visible indicator of the project’s commitment to sustainability. These buildings transition from glass to masonry on the block interior, using a transect of architecture. The residential portions are contemporary, but stoops provide an intimate, traditional feel that connects with surrounding historic neighborhoods.

Lofts of Washington University St. Louis deck
The project also has a roof deck that allows for great views of the street-life below. Source: William Rawn Associates.

The second-floor terrace serves as a center for student community that allows residents to view the activity on the street. Along with outdoor courtyard spaces located on the north side of the project, the terrace also acts as a green roof to control storm-water run-off and reduce the ‘urban heat island’ effect. The project makes use of photovoltaic panels, a rainwater harvesting cistern, and a series of densely planted bioswales—all of which contribute to its LEED-Platinum rating.

The Lofts are located in the Delmar Loop’s middle section, which lacked adequate foot traffic, and the pre-existing block structure discouraged pedestrian activity. The new mews opens up the block to neighborhoods to the north, improving the site’s connection to St. Louis’s street life.

Top photo: The exterior of the Lofts of Washington University. Source: William Rawn Associates.

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