Drawing upon historical elements from the University of Virginia, Cambridge University, and Oxford University, Design Plus conceived the Richard M. Devos Center as an academic village that would provide a humane, safe, welcoming environment on an urban campus while creating a sense of community. The aerial photography emphasizes the overall unity of the complex--the components obviously belong together, observed Colin Munro, the judge who chaired Masonry Construction's Top Projects competition.

Unlike high-rise buildings, which are difficult to develop in phases and, consequently, often cannot meet future needs, the academic village plan offers the university great flexibility. "Masonry was selected as the major finish material to best exemplify and express the design goals and style," said project architect Craig Nicely of Design Plus, which submitted the winning entry. "The qualities of longevity, low maintenance, and durability, as well as the timeless character that masonry exhibits, made it the right choice for the project."

More than 800,000 brick units were used in the 256,000-square-foot project. The exterior walls of the steel-frame building are primarily masonry cavity walls with a brick veneer and block backup, while the large-radius brick arches are structural and reinforced with steel.

When examining the entry, Munro took note of the project's battered walls, arches, and towers, which reference the Richardsonian architectural style popular in Grand Rapids at the turn of the 20th century. The project also includes contemporary design elements, such as the masonry banding. Bill Palmer liked the project's color combinations and "nice, clean brickwork," while architect Pat Rand gave the designers high marks for finesse in the use of masonry landscaping, particularly flatwork, to create "positive outdoor spaces."

Creating the arches and the other architectural elements that give this complex its character required the use of over 170 brick shapes. Still, "after the first one or two arches, the rest were pretty simple," said Jeff Irving of Burggrabe Masonry, which did nearly $6 million of masonry work on this job.

Project team
Grand Valley State University, Allendale, Mich.
Architect and landscape architect: Design Plus, Grand Rapids, Mich.
Structural engineer: JDH Engineering, Grandville, Mich.
Masonry contractor: Burggrabe Masonry, Grand Rapids, Mich.
General contractor: Pioneer Inc., Grand Rapids, Mich.