Expanding for a Social Sciences Hub at Princeton University

December 2, 2019


The social sciences program at Princeton University aims to advance our understanding of human society while speaking to some of the 21st century’s largest societal issues. As part of the Master Plan to develop a social sciences hub, the university commissioned the renovation and expansion of their existing 1929 gothic-style heritage building with the intent to maintain the historical significance of the envelope, while reorganizing and modernizing the interior layout. Entro worked closely with architect KPMB to detail the exterior and interior needs for identification, orientation and donor recognition that tie into a campus-wide directional sign system.

The building’s address at 20 Washington Road belongs to the first group of historic buildings located at the campus centre. The architectural solution honours the original building while introducing a transparent and open environment for students. We wanted to echo this balance with a wayfinding and donor recognition program that could work with both the gothic style architecture and the architects’ modern addition.

The interior signage is designed with glass-like panels and stainless steel details. Signs are trimmed with brushed stainless steel and cut out numerals that indicate the building level. We specifically chose these materials to maintain a minimalist look that would work with both the existing gothic architecture and the new, modern addition.

With departments being far away from one another and spread out over multiple levels, one of our challenges was to ensure directories offer comprehensive information to guide students accordingly yet maintain a simplistic informational system so as to manage visual clutter. The signage was governed by ADA and NJUCC guidelines, and care was taken to work with a code consultant to ensure the strict requirements were met.

For the interior donor recognition program, we inspired ourselves by the design from other campus buildings, readapting the concepts to fit into the new standard of layout and text information. We established a hierarchy of sign layouts and text scales for different donor values and differentiate the donor signage from the wayfinding program with bronze finishes. Extensive mockups and testing ensured the right balance throughout the donor wall and named spaces.

The exterior donor recognition is integrated into the architectural elements of the building — recessed letters on a stone bench and stainless steel letters mounted directly onto glass beside the entrance. The aim was to have simplicity and preserve clear views, without any heavy sign boxes or panels.

Overall, the now 197,500-square-foot building boasts a strong wayfinding and donor recognition program that helps students find their way and educates them on the generosity of donors that made this building and other university programming possible.

To find out more about KPMB’s architectural approach for Princeton University, see here.