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HomeWorksLaura Spelman Rockefeller Halls, Princeton University

Laura Spelman Rockefeller Halls, Princeton University

Андрей Романенко

This 58-apartment complex was designed to meet Princeton University’s newly co-ed housing needs and simultaneously provide a strong diagonal spine as the main pedestrian connection between the Princeton train station and the university campus, linking multiple student walkways and surrounding streets. The work was to be executed quickly and efficiently while yet preserving Princeton’s legacy trees. The solution was to break down the mass into smaller units: eight 4-story cells linked by upper-level bridges and ground-level terraces arrayed along the pedestrian spine amid the heavily treed site. A walk through the complex is a varied path of experience charged by changing light and views, landscape and hardscape, solids and voids, and different perspectives while proceeding straight ahead, leaving many surprised by the long distance traveled (some 500 feet, roughly the length of 1 ½ football fields).

The project was a technical achievement of high order as the architects worked closely with the industry to fabricate precast concrete wall and floor panels, the longest stretching 57 feet and weighing nearly 20 tons. As the finely crafted panels required no interior or exterior finishes, the entire dormitory complex was assembled in just thirteen months (half the time required for conventional construction).

Spelman Halls received a Prestressed Concrete Institute Award in 1974, and a national Honor Award from the American Institute of Architects three years later.


Site plan / Courtesy of Pei Cobb Freed & Partners


Design Team: I.M. Pei, Design Partner; Harold Fredenburgh, Design Architect
I.M. Pei & Partners