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The Forum at Honors Housing

University of Utah
University of Utah, Donna Garff Marriott Honors Residential Scholars Community

Designing student housing for honors students that also serves as a community think-tank was a fun challenge.  The honors housing concept of a “forum”, a public gathering space that facilitates discussion, engagement, and sharing of ideas, became the theme for creating a community focal point and a place where the students and faculty can challenge one another, inspire one another, share information, and overall enhance the academic environment.


One of the key elements in creating a forum, in the classical sense, is an arrangement of columns or towers.  Accordingly, the building design uses a group of carefully placed towers to mark community spaces within the building. Formally, the building design has taken some influence from public forum spaces created by towers in Italian hill towns such as San Gimignano.


The residential wings are each anchored around a series of “Honors Towers,” providing two major building identities, one conceptual and one functional. From a conceptual standpoint, the towers (as a verb) represent the students’ aspiration to climb, succeed, and achieve. From a functional standpoint, the towers (as a noun) provide way-finding landmarks for the interior and exterior of the building. They anchor the building to the site and mark the entrance and common spaces within the building.