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When Bergmeyer designs it, even a mail room can become “cutting edge”. In student residence hall planning, some program elements rarely get the TLC they need. Bookstore? Printing center? Mail room? Most often, they’re devoid of ideas and squeezed into otherwise unusable ground floor space. Not so at Bates.

Situated at the south edge of the Bates campus, Kalperis and Chu Halls, designed by Ann Beha Architects, formed a central green space and campus gateway. Kalperis Hall was identified as a prime location for using student services to activate the building’s ground level. As design partners in the project, Bergmeyer’s assignment was to reimagine the humble book store, printing center, and mail room as desirable student destinations and take advantage of the program synergies.

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The Bates College Store feels more like a place to hang out and meet up with friends than a bookstore. The cash counter was designed as if it were a café, modern wood cladding and warm lighting makes it a casual atmosphere. Just outside the store in the residential lobby, a bar counter and comfortable seating encourages students to stay awhile and provides ample space to accommodate larger groups and campus tours. 

The spirit of the college comes through with big, bold images of the Bates brand – its logotype, bobcat mascot, and signature garnet color – prevalent in all the retail signage and across the college merchandise. 

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Given the realities of online shopping and email communication, the design team saw the greatest potential for change in the mail room itself. The opportunity to reduce the floor area of a conventional mail room was considerable. Instead of a large room filled with personalized mailboxes, a rack of a few folders effectively handled all of the students’ physical mail. A simple bin system was designed to organize in/out packages, relying on email or text notification to students by bin number when packages were ready for pickup. Flowing seamlessly into one bright, contiguous space, Post & Print became a place for students to gather and share in the excitement of getting new stuff as a social experience.

Print is a campus service widely used as well and despite being located in the lower level, still needed to be visible to the campus community. The services offered are vast, and a huge ampersand welcomes visitors, implying that the service not only does printing, but also scanning, binding, design… and the list goes on.

To connect the interior design with the historical context, Bates and the design team collaborated with Museum L-A, a local institution with curated art and artifacts on the history of work, industry, and culture of the Lewiston-Auburn region. On an inspirational tour of the museum, the team discovered historic silkscreens previously used by the Bates Manufacturing Co. for bedspreads and other cloth goods. The beautiful hand-crafted patterns were scaled up into a variety of installations within the student spaces, to appreciate the quality and details of the craftsmanship.

Soon after opening, Bates announced the residences as Kalperis Hall and Chu Hall in recognition of a generous commitment by Elizabeth Kalperis Chu and J. Michael Chu, both graduates of the school. The buildings were adorned with new building signs to commemorate their contribution. Now hosting up to 1,500 visitors per day, the resident support functions — store, mail, and print center — were transformed into a hub for campus life, adding to the social experience of student life at Bates.

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