Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Pitt's New Dorm a Throwback Nordenberg Hall, Opening Monday, to Fit Students' Communal Needs

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Pitt's New Dorm a Throwback Nordenberg Hall, Opening Monday, to Fit Students' Communal Needs

Article excerpt

The University of Pittsburgh's newest residence hall may not offer the suite life, but it's not too shabby, either.

The college dorm room, once barely more than four walls, a desk and a bed, has evolved dramatically, with many American universities in recent years offering students suite-style rooms replete with kitchens and bathrooms and lounge areas.

Mark A. Nordenberg Hall, which welcomes its first students Monday, is a little more retro.

The 10-story, $59 million building on Fifth Avenue in Oakland still has plenty of modern amenities for the 543 freshmen and 16 resident assistants it will house. There's air conditioning, wireless Internet, a fitness center, music practice rooms, laundry rooms, an indoor bike storage site and every room comes with a television, microwave and fridge.

But rather than large, apartment-style suites, the residence hall contains small rooms designed for two or three students, with communal lounges, study spaces and bathrooms and showers on each floor.

The concept behind the design was "to not make it so comfortable that students want to stay in their rooms," said Dan Mitchell, principal of Mackey Mitchell Architects in St. Louis, which worked with Pitt and local Pittsburgh architecture firm MCF to design Nordenberg Hall.

The firm still designs plenty of suite-style residence halls, but he said that a shift -- designing freshman dorms to be what the new students need rather than necessarily what they want -- has been occurring across the country for the past 15 years or so.

And what first-year college students need, he said, is a living space that fosters community.

"This is a generation that could easily stay in their room," said Kathy Humphrey, Pitt's vice provost and dean of students, referring to the constant availability of entertainment through phones and computers.

In Nordenberg Hall, they won't be able to.

Freshmen will have to leave their rooms to use the communal bathrooms and showers. And it will be far easier for students to watch movies in one of the building's several lounges, or spend time together on one of the third-floor rooftop terraces rather than inside a 250-square-foot dorm room. …

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