Vassar College Center

A new strategy for a 1970s college center.


Vassar College

Poughkeepsie, NY

Project Team:

Tobias Armborst, Daniel D'Oca, Georgeen Theodore, Andrew Varela (OOAA), Katherine Isidro, Eka Pramuditha

Interboro was asked by Vassar College to help redesign the 1970s College Center, which currently houses student facilities, meeting rooms, food services and administrative offices. The College Center is the geographic and programmatic focus of the college’s everyday life, but given the way the everyday lives of students, faculty, and administrators have changed over the past decades, it no longer performs so well in that role.

Based on extensive outreach and input from various stakeholders, we developed a strategic plan to turn the College Center into a viable and stimulating place for the next ten years through small, targeted architectural and programmatic changes.

Phase 1 of the plan was completed in 2016 (See: Vassar Student Lounge and Services)

Center of Campus

Main sets up a clear division between the East and the West sides of Central Campus.

The internal organization of the College Center reinforces this division.

A figure/ground of public and ‘private’ spaces on the first floor of the College Center shows us how confusing and overwhelming the entry experience currently is.

Building on the Beaux Arts composition of Main, the College Center was organized as a collection of pavilions around a central axis, but Main's current organization has lost that clarity.

Initially, the program of the second floor of the College Center was varied, providing spaces for a multitude of student, faculty and administrator activities.

The scope of activity space is now primarily conference rooms.


The current circulation in and around the College Center emphasizes the division of central campus into a “front” and a “back.” Changing the circulation in and around the College Center would turn the center into a true crossroads of the campus, and it would increase the access and attractiveness of the western part of central campus (including admissions office)

The rear facade of the building is currently occupied by a loading dock, which leaves that side of the building barren and acts as a barrier to the East side of Central Campus. This relatively small change would simplify the internal circulation and create more attractive social spaces in the College Center, and radically change the quality and accessibility of the western central campus, including access to the Old Laundry Building site and the Admissions office.

With changes in the way we communicate via mail and email, the mailboxes at the very center of the College Center have lost their significance in the social life of the college. Relocating the mailboxes opens up a significant area for a new social space for student life. The first floor of the College Center would then offer differentiated but continuous social spaces.

This approach hopes to consolidate all student services into a One-Stop student service area in the basement level of Main. The ground floor can then be used as a social space, returning the original scope of activity that was provided with Jean Paul Carlhian’s 1970s College Center addition. These moves will then free up the second floor to house student activities again.