How intentional building design helps these colleges build community synergy

Situated off Notre Dame Avenue next to the iconic Golden Dome, the Raclin Murphy Museum of Art stands at the entrance of the university as a great invitation to those outside the campus perimeter.

As colleges and universities try more than ever to engage with those outside of their walls, leaders are looking for ways to do so genuinely and with care. As campuses tend to stand as hubs of culture and scientific inquiry for the broader community, one way to build confidence and interaction with the community is through intentional building design.

“When you say you’re going to welcome people in, you can do it with a slogan or a campaign, but that’s only the visuals,” says Joseph Becherer, director of the Raclin Murphy Museum of Art at the University of Notre Dame. “If you’re going to do this, it’s a way of thinking, speaking and being.”

Building infrastructure that naturally positions a university to interact with the outside world shows an understanding of the needs and desires of the general public, Becherer says. Here is how Notre Dame and one prestigious California university reflect that in their building construction.

Expanding culture and art in Notre Dame

The University of Notre Dame’s rapid expansion has inadvertently burrowed its longstanding center of Catholic art and culturethe Snite Museum of Artdeeper into the center of campus. While the museum is still enjoyed by students traversing campus and approximately 12,000 K12 students each year, the 40-year-old facility has lost touch with the outside community. However, the newly opened Raclin Murphy Museum of Art signifies a return to relevance.

Situated off Notre Dame Avenue next to the iconic Golden Dome, the Raclin Murphy Museum of Art stands at the entrance of the university as a great invitation to those outside the campus perimeter. “Everything was really designed to accommodate that public audience,” Becherer says. “The easier accessibility with parking, drop-off and bus routes makes us much more part of the community.”

Surrounding the 70,000-square-foot museum is a nine-acre greenbelt sculpture park. Visitors entering the heart of the museum are greeted by a sky-lit atrium that draws viewers’ eyes up toward multiple floors of galleries containing one of the oldest university art collections in the country.

“This is a way for you and me to become a ‘we.’ This is a very ‘we’ mentality,” Becherer says. “We serve scholars, faculty and students, but the ability of our programs to reach broad, diverse audiences allows us to give back in a meaningful way.”

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Deepening mental health practice at the University of California, Irvine

The UCI Susan Samueli Integrative Health Institute (Source: HED Architects)

The University of California, Irvine has practiced integrative medicine for the past 20 years, blending therapeutic and lifestyle approaches with standard Western healthcare practice. In 2022, Irvine’s Susan & Henry Samueli College of Health Sciences opened a new complex that expanded operations and welcomed a deeper integration of the university’s holistic healthcare programs.

The Susan Samueli Integrative Health Institute combines school of nursing, health sciences and eye care. The new hub is anchored by a luscious green courtyard where students are encouraged to practice yoga, meditation and tai chi.

The curated design also elevates integrative medicine as a discipline. The new institute is a fully functioning clinical site with skilled practitioners to treat patients and students.

“We are a national leader in training primary care and other healthcare providers to complete quick and targeted psychiatric exams or substance use screening and pain-related disorders, and when to refer patients to a behavioral health specialist,” Robert McCarron, director of education at the institute, said before a state special Senate committee in February. “Our faculty are multi-specialty physicians who practice in primary care and psychiatry or addiction medicine.”

The UCI institute also hosts community outreach programs regularly for its medical students, healthcare professionals and the public on the importance of integrative health.

Alcino Donadel
Alcino Donadel
Alcino Donadel is a UB staff writer and first-generation journalism graduate from the University of Florida. His beats have ranged from Gainesville's city development, music scene and regional little league sports divisions. He has triple citizenship from the U.S., Ecuador and Brazil.

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