William C. Buck Hall,
Lafayette College, Easton, PA

Creating a striking welcome

Lafayette College’s Williams Arts Campus is the home of the new Film and Media Studies Building, which will integrate with the adjacent Wilson Arts Plaza to create a unique arts environment with discrete vignettes for performances. The building will house a screening room with stadium seating for 184 occupants, a 200-seat black box theater, media room and scene shop.   A glass vestibule provides a dramatic entrance to the building, and a central lobby connects the Black Box Theater to the screening room.

The selected site for the Film and Media Studies building is located in the flood plain of the adjacent Bushkill Creek. The main entrance was raised above the 100-year base flood elevation on a podium and the occupied floors were raised up to the second floor, protecting the facility from future flood damage. All areas below the base flood elevation have limited use for building access and parking, and allow for the free flow of water in and out of the spaces. The portion of the building that falls in the floodway was structurally separated from the rest of the building so the remaining structure could be designed with lessened flood load criteria.

The building uses a combined lateral system of braced frames and moment frames to resist wind and seismic forces. The braces were intentionally not placed at the ground level to maximize the usage of the Arts Plaza which extends underneath the FAMS building, and to allow the building to “float” above the 100-year flood plain. A series of existing retaining walls and piers were removed and replaced with a Redi-Rock precast modular large-block retaining wall at the 30-feet high embankment at the river in order to maximize the ground floor space for the Arts Plaza and parking.

The design team also faced geotechnical issues with the bedrock under the site categorized as “Karst” geology which is susceptible to caves and sinkholes. Due to the tight site constraints and subsurface conditions, micro-piles were utilized to address the sinkhole potential and maintain the long term resiliency of the structure.

The resilient, state-of-the-art Film and Media Studies building boasts sustainable features such as photovoltaic panels on the roof of the black box theater and green roof tray assembly on the roof of the screen room.

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Structural Systems Used

Steel Frame