By Don Eberly and Kristen Pappaterra | School Construction News November/December 2015

ATLANTA — Building on Georgia State University’s 30-year history of making legal education accessible through a public, flexible and practice-based program, its College of Law recently welcomed students to a new building designed to transform and encourage flexible learning environments. With a core mission of nurturing community engagement, student learning and the demands of a modern legal education, the new building’s design promotes synergy and interaction, soma best price online and will be the university’s first LEED facility.

As the architect of record, Stevens & Wilkinson — an architecture, engineering and interior design firm based in Atlanta and Columbia, S.C. — provided architecture and engineering design services for the new Georgia State University College of Law building, located in downtown Atlanta, which opened its doors June 22, 2015. Administration, faculty and leaders of the College of Law celebrated the completion of the building during a Sept. 9, 2015, ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Initial planning for the new College of Law began in spring 2011, when administrators decided to create a high-tech learning environment with the most sophisticated equipment, adaptive learning design and advanced engineering available.

Stevens & Wilkinson’s project team conceptualized and executed the design development for the exterior skin of the building as well as implemented the architecture and engineering to provide large assembly spaces, including a 230-seat moot courtroom and auditorium; an international arbitration center; and a 200-seat flexible-use conference center. The firm’s plan also involved large classrooms and seminar rooms designed to seat a variety of class sizes, including 25, 50, 80 and 90 seats.

Primary objectives for the project included supplying much needed classrooms and state-of-the-art learning space. The College of Law Building was designed for collaboration, content sharing and group learning. It quickly has become the heart of Georgia State University and a gathering place for both internal and external communities.

Stevens & Wilkinson wrote the specifications based upon a design plan provided by Detroit-headquartered SmithGroupJJR, which implemented the design and programming verification, benchmarking, and design concepts for the building envelope. Along with the project partner Harris+Smith of Atlanta and builder McCarthy Building Companies of St. Louis, the project team collaborated to design and deliver a leading-edge building of individual and joint learning that also offers students, faculty and staff all the customary amenities necessary for institutional excellence.

Emphasizing Georgia State University’s vision, “The new building is integral to the College of Law’s commitment to provide an excellent legal education to a diverse student body, to promote legal scholarship and service, and to capitalize on its unique Atlanta environment,” said Ron Stang, AIA, LEED AP, chairman and a principal of Stevens & Wilkinson’s Atlanta office.

The completed building features a three-story public gathering space in the lobby; a two-story active learning space; and reading and study rooms adjacent to an outdoor garden terrace on the sixth floor.


The lower, below-grade level consists of a 6,000-square-foot, 230-seat moot courtroom and auditorium, which was designed for diverse uses, including practice jury or appellate court, learning, breakout and legal proceeding areas. Audio/visual equipment and devices, including screens that can be lowered from the ceiling, were specified and installed for students to watch their moot court performances following learning and exercise sessions.

A conference center with movable walls used for catering and events; a suite of conference center offices; and hall of small and large clinic rooms surround the courtroom-auditorium on the lower level.

The ground level includes the learning commons, designed as a multi-use hub and the main organizational space in the building. The project team planned its central location on the floor to encourage collaboration and connections within the College of Law and broader community.

The learning commons acts as a gathering and study space, and provides walkable connections to areas created for public programs, including The Center for Clinical Programs, events, and the auditorium on a lower level. A skills suite was designed to include three courtrooms with breakout and deliberation space for simulation and experimental learning.


A mirrored layout of learning spaces, meeting areas and faculty offices was the concept for the second and third levels. These academic floors consist of large classrooms and seminar rooms with flexible learning settings and meeting rooms, commons and support spaces for faculty.

“The design setup is intended for content sharing for speakers, with cameras and advanced audio/visual equipment for learning and technology conveniences,” Stang said. “Built-in stairs connect the two floors, keeping these two similar levels of the building unified yet easily functional as separate spaces when needed.”

Because evolving pedagogy requires adaptive spaces for learning, Stevens & Wilkinson and the project team collaborated upon 50-seat classrooms configured with multiple fronts and space flexibility. This provided for various layouts, such as for lectures, case-studies, active learning with content sharing, and peer-to-peer learning capabilities.

The fourth floor comprises dedicated spaces for administrative and organizational purposes, for both faculty members and students. The dean’s suite, and administrative and registrar offices line the west side of the floor, while student organizations, the student bar association and student trial lawyers association were positioned in the middle. Along the east side of the fourth floor are centers and institutes of learning designed with glass walls to create a sense of union, but with ample sound and space barriers.

Smaller individual and group learning spaces and a moot court connect to the Atlanta Center for International Arbitration and Mediation. The center’s spacious seminar room was designed as a highly professional environment with sound privacy and flexibility of use.


The law building’s library sits on the fifth and sixth levels, which is the largest part of the overall concept. The library is made available only for Georgia State University law students and is designed with a variety of environments, such as study rooms, cafés, classrooms, and an alumni reading room. It was designed to sit atop the building as a lit beacon, establishing a civic institutional identity, among large Atlanta office towers.

“The law library includes a high-density, compact storage system for accessibility and preservation as well as conference and library workrooms,” explained Stang. “Its glass box design style acts as an exterior expression for the entire building and equates to absolute quiet reading and study just a few floors above city streets.”

The sixth and top level includes an exterior garden terrace with native plantings and an interior reading room with a view overlooking the library and adjacent Woodruff Park. Study and reading rooms were conceptualized to flank instructional technology and lab review rooms available to students. To provide security and safety for the building at large, Stevens & Wilkinson engineered access control, turnstile systems, close circuit TV and fire-rated glass.

For the new College of Law’s 646 current students, their school’s architectural and engineering design expresses aspects of leadership, learning and scholarship as independent building forms woven around a central collaboration space. In turn, hallways, classrooms and offices were designed to take advantage of natural daylighting, shedding light upon the next generation of lawyers, judges and others who will study, develop and apply law in the future.

Don Eberly is president and Kristen Pappaterra is a public relations coordinator with Eberly & Collard Public Relations.

**This article originally appeared in the print and online versions of School Construction News November/December 2015 issue. 

About Stevens & Wilkinson:

Founded in 1919, Stevens & Wilkinson is a full-service architecture, engineering and interior design firm committed to providing clients with “Smart Design Solutions.” The firm’s combined design capabilities lead to projects executed with creative, innovative and holistic design solutions. Learn more:

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