Forming the heart of the historic West Campus residential community, Craven and Crowell Quads are as synonymous with Duke’s classic gothic architecture as the Chapel itself. Originally built in the 1930s, Craven and Crowell had been minimally modernized and lacked the amenities and creature comforts provided in the university’s newer residence halls. Duke partnered with Clark Nexsen’s Student Life team to reimagine these historic buildings, focusing on goals to enhance the student life experience and provide a strong sense of community while preserving the exterior architecture.
Home to nearly 800 students in 18 designated “houses,” the design solution centered on strengthening individual house identities and creating a distinct wayfinding strategy. The use of color and branding for each house has transformed the wayfinding experience from notoriously confusing to both logical and engaging. The primary student entry, or “front door,” of each house opens to a main circulation stair, presenting the opportunity for custom branding signage and color to become a wayfinding thread. This defined path weaves through the vertical circulation, corridor, and room signage, and finally to the “hearth” of each house – the relocated commons space.
As the social heart of each residential community, the commons room is a centerpiece. The design team introduced floor-to-ceiling glass storefront between the room and the corridor to enhance transparency, engagement, and students’ sense of community. A sleek interior aesthetic and modern furnishings offer students a compelling space to gather. Throughout the buildings, new interior finishes, enhanced amenities, and updated building infrastructure and systems have created a comfortable, welcoming student life experience.
In addition to housing upperclassmen and some fraternities, Craven is home to the university’s Office of Residence Life. Serving students across the Duke campus, a key component of this project centered on enhancing the Residence Life work environment and the customer service experience for students. The new office features a welcoming reception space, an open and transparent layout, and branding consistent with Craven’s House D.
IIDA Carolinas Chapter DesignWorks Best Multifamily Housing Project, 2019 (Crowell)