Exterior Architecture / CSTD News / Contemporary Stone & Tile Design Magazine

Following campus tradition of stone architecture

The humanities departments at Boston College gets a new home at Stokes Hall, which matches the prestigious school’s historic Gothic-style stone architecture on its Middle Campus

January 8, 2014

Earlier this year, Tsoi/Kobus & Associates completed work on Stokes Hall at Boston College. The 183,000-square-foot building houses the school’s humanities departments, and the school requested that it be designed and built to look as if it has always sat on the campus green. The school also requested that the building match — in style and materials — the college’s historic Gothic-style stone architecture on its Middle Campus. To accomplish this, the building was made in the English Gothic-style using traditional stone-by-stone construction methods. Additionally, Old York seam-faced granite from Old York Quarry in York, ME, and Indiana variegated limestone were used in the building’s design.

“A great university building needs to articulate the deepest held values of the institution and do so in a way that is highly convincing to all those who use it,” said David Owens, Design Principal of Tsoi/Kobus & Associates of Cambridge, MA. “A well-designed and built stone building, such as what we provided at Boston College, speaks to those values of quality and permanence in a way that few non-masonry buildings could express.”

The exterior of Stokes Hall is composed of 53,000 square feet of Old York granite. To ensure that the aesthetic of the new building remained consistent with the Gothic-style of existing campus architecture, the stone was custom quarried in Maine.

“It was laid up in a coursed ashlar pattern — similar to nearby buildings on campus,” explained Owens. “The stone was saw cut at the base and head, guillotined cut at the vertical surfaces and the edges were dressed on site.” All coursing was on a 1½-inch module with stones running from 3 to 14 modules in height, 5 to 32 inches long, with a 6- to 9-inch width.

Additionally, 10,615 pieces of Indiana limestone — totaling approximately 25,000 cubic feet — were employed for quoins, arches, art panels and fenestration. The limestone was quarried in Oolitic, IN, and fabricated by Mankato
Kasota Stone Co. of Mankato MN.                                      

The design and materials were chosen after a visit to the quarry, which is no longer in operation since the completion of the project, and the team was in unanimous agreement regarding the decision. There was only one other stone under consideration and that was a seam-face granite as well. The main reason for the selection was that the design team felt it worked beautifully with the existing buildings on campus, according to Owens.  

The biggest challenge faced during the project was getting the color blend desired for the granite onsite. This was because they were designing to a much proscribed range of reds, yellows and grays, with strict proportional demands for each. Because stone is a natural material, finding the correct color range meant constant vigilance. Once that was achieved, a mason was given a general pattern for the color and size of the stone that he needed to follow. 

The response from the Boston College community has been overwhelmingly positive, according to Owens. The school was particularly pleased about the way that the new structure complements the style and architecture of the existing buildings, which had been an important goal from the start of construction.  

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