Kresge College Expansion at the University of California, Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz, CA

Plan Completed 2019

University of California, Santa Cruz

Educational, Planning

8-acre site, including 4 new buildings totaling 125,000 sf

Targeting LEED Silver


Located in a redwood forest along ridges and ravines in northern California, Kresge College has been a bold experiment in student-driven education since 1971. Its original “hill town” campus by Charles Moore and William Turnbull created a bright, playful village within the forest, anchored by a winding pedestrian street, where students could practice Kresge’s founding theme of participatory democracy and test out new ways for living and learning.

Studio Gang’s campus expansion plan includes the design of four new buildings and overall improvements to the site’s circulation and landscape. The plan also included a preliminary design for a new Kresge Town Hall.

Fifty years later, Studio Gang’s campus expansion plan aims to reinvigorate the Kresge campus as a vital, experimental environment for education—still independent-minded and free-spirited, but no longer so isolated and inward-facing. The campus expansion plan involves the construction of four new buildings—a trio of residential halls and an academic center—which together aim to restore the integrity and community spirit of the original design while simultaneously opening it up to embrace students of all abilities, the incredible natural ecology of its site, and the larger university community beyond.

The plan locates the new buildings — together with several universally accessible plazas for outdoor gathering, dining, and study — within the ecology of the campus.

At the campus scale, the project extends the original pedestrian street into a loop path. This includes incorporating accessible pathways and, at specific moments, turning the inward-facing street outward to connect with the surrounding forest and other portions of the university. The plan also imagined strategies for the renewal of the original buildings and smaller structures like the well-loved Mayor’s Stand, including possible renovations and upgrades to improve durability and environmental performance.

The project’s four new buildings do not replicate Moore and Turnbull’s architecture, but rather engage it in a dialogue that complements its rectilinear, angular language with a more organic one of curvature and porosity. All of the new buildings are sited and designed to minimize the removal of redwood trees by bending around important groves and nestling into the topography.

Given the project’s size and complexity, a large site model became a critical tool for the design team. Redwood trees, represented with wood dowels, were positioned to match their exact location on site.

With the College’s strong spirit of participatory democracy, gathering input from students was critical to expanding the campus. The process recalls that of Moore and Turnbull, who were early proponents of community participation in design.

Aligning Kresge’s built structures to work with nature to reduce their carbon footprint is a key component of the expansion project. The redwood canopy, for example, provides shade that reduces cooling loads, and abundant operable windows take advantage of the mild climate to further passive cooling and bring in natural ventilation. To minimize water demand, the design rehabilitates and expands Kresge’s historic runnel system, allowing circulation pathways to work with the site’s topography and ecology to direct, capture, and filter stormwater for reuse. The expansion project’s subtle changes to the original campus buildings, when combined with the newly-designed facilities and amenities, together add up to a significant improvement in environmental performance—as well as a greater appreciation for the original architecture and bold forays into the College’s current and future resilience.


TEF Design, Associate Architect

Swinerton Builders, General Contractor

Magnussen Klemencic Associates, Structural Engineer

MME Civil + Structural Engineering, Structural Engineer

Joni L. Janecki & Associates, Landscape Architect

Office of Cheryl Barton, Landscape Architect

Sherwood Design Engineers, Civil Engineer

Introba Group, MEP/FP Engineer

Atelier Ten, Sustainability Consultant

Horton Lees Brogden Lighting Design, Lighting Consultant

Cheng+Snyder, Wayfinding and Graphics

Directional Logic, Quantity Surveyor

Jensen Hughes, Accessibility Consultant

TeeCom, Technology Consultant