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Lofts: Visionary look or poor design?

Architect, co-owner explain exterior design after mixed reception

Published: Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Updated: Thursday, October 4, 2012 13:10

Redstone Lofts

The Vermont Cynic Erika Hurth

Sophomores Kate Hutchens (left) and Jennie Hill sit on top of the “Flying Diaper” outside of Redstone Lofts Sept. 28. Some students have criticized the appearance of the newly built Redstone Lofts.

The exterior design of the newly built Redstone Lofts has raised questions and eyebrows across campus. 

In a recent survey given to UVM students, 85 percent of respondents answered that the Redstone Lofts are “hideous.”

In reaction to this criticism, both co-owner and architect of the complex are insistent that the right move was made.

“We’ve been hearing the mixed reviews regarding [the Lofts’] appearance,” a member of the Redstone Commerical Group and co-owner of the complex Larry Williams said. 

Williams said that the intention of the design was to push the envelope.

“We understand that it doesn’t look like other buildings on campus,” he said, “but I really feel in terms of the overall layout and environmental design that it could win some architectural awards down the road.” 

The Redstone Commercial Group, a commercial real estate agency based out of Burlington, was brought to UVM in 2010 to develop and manage the project on campus under a long-term ground lease. 

Advancements by the company to develop the Lofts commenced in April 2011, and concluded in July, according to the New England Real Estate Journal website.

“I really think that an indication as to whether or not the project was successful is to take a look at how many students want to live there,” Williams said. “We reached maximum leasing capacity in no time for this year and are well on our way for the same outcome next year.”

Some students still question the inspiration behind the exterior design.

“A student may ask, ‘Why are these colors arranged in this pattern?’” architect for the Redstone Lofts, Alain Youkel, said. “The offset panels are primarily blue, gray and white in order to complement the skies we have here in Vermont, and this pattern reflects the direction of modern architecture. [. . .] The red brick buildings are simply non-descript and out of date.”

When asked if this progressive approach to the exterior design was appropriate in comparison to the surrounding red brick buildings, 72 percent of survey participants answered that the Lofts are “a disruptive eyesore.”

“I would say that buildings like Waterman and the Billings library are what give UVM its beauty and character,” sophomore Michael Reardon said. “I wish [Youkel] could have found a way to model his design off of buildings like these while still maintaining his modern approach.”

Julia Hattem, a junior living off-campus, said she realizes that architects are influenced by new styles of development. Despite this, she said that Vermont buildings should maintain their more classic appearance.

“The Lofts have such an ugly exterior, and it’s a shame because it takes away from what a great job they did on the inside,” she said. “The red buildings are what define Vermont, and architects should keep this in mind.”

More information on the Lofts can be found through the New England Real Estate Journal at www.nerej.com, Redstone Commercial Group at www.redstonevt.com and Youkel Architecture at www.youkel.com.

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