Born from the University of Arizona’s initiative to rethink their existing campus housing model, the Highland District development puts emphasis on student success, focusing on the retention of first-year students. The multi-phase project includes three residential facilities and El Portal, which houses the offices of Residence Life. Each residential building was designed to promote the highest levels of community-building, inspired by the medieval planning concept of a “walled city.” These establishments were known for their high density, shared interior courtyards, and urban scale.
Phase one of the housing district included El Portal and the first residential building, Villa del Puente. Located on the south edge of campus adjacent to a popular intersection, these buildings frame a significant gateway into the core of the University of Arizona’s campus. A diagonal pedestrian pathway intersects El Portal and brings students and visitors past Residence Life offices as they continue on to their final destinations. The second phase included the other two residential buildings, Posada San Pedro and Pueblo de la Ciénega.
Each residential building features student rooms in a variety of configurations, arranged in four wings around a private shared courtyard. Not only does this layout enhance solar mitigation, but it provides safety and security while giving students a sense of ownership of their outdoor space. The deliberate use of bold color and composition in each central courtyard can be glimpsed from outside the buildings, evoking a sense of discovery and curiosity about what is happening within.
Informal gathering and study is accommodated in great rooms, group study rooms, and activity rooms. Benches, niches, and overlooks throughout the buildings promote interaction. The buildings are designed to encourage residents to spend time in these communal spaces, increasing the informal learning and socialization that occurs through chance encounters.
The performance of the Highland District Housing has become a model for student housing development on campus, as the University of Arizona continues to provide a holistic living/learning environment that supports academic success and social/emotional well-being.