CAW Architects, Inc.

CAW Architects, Inc.

Palo Alto, CA



The Peterson Building is located on the prominent Panama Mall corridor at the heart of Stanford University.  What makes this project truly unique is its sensitive and clever rehabilitation of a turn-of-the-19th-century Richardsonian historic building type juxtaposed with a state-of-the-art design and engineering center.   The University and architectural team aimed to create a world class collaborative facility, while recapturing the original, highly-valued spatial and natural light qualities this historic structure once provided, but which were lost from numerous renovations over the decades.  Integral to the building design are sustainable features that are both appropriately transparent and a benefit to the occupants, campus, and environment.

The project houses the d.School, a program renowned for its emphasis on “design thinking” and radical collaboration. The team met the program challenges by first reaching an understanding of the d.School’s culture through an immersive 100-day ethnographic study and observation. A series of inclusive, interactive design workshops led to an overall design approach that provides a carefully balanced program of spaces variously promoting big idea-generation, head’s down individual study, and all-hands/assembly presentations. Re-configurability, customization, and variable uses are key functional characteristics. These spaces are satellites surrounding a central interaction hub that facilitates human connectivity and high-level interaction. 

The project team met the building design challenges by stripping away inappropriate modifications and inserting a contemporary, but appropriately contrasting addition in their place that recaptures the building’s historic exterior courtyard as an atrium.  Dubbed the “Interaction Zone” by the users, this space reintroduces a light-filled courtyard to the building’s core and creates a social hub to the building that facilitates interaction, collaboration, and way finding.  The exterior sandstone and brick facades of the original central courtyard, once lost, have been restored within the new atrium.  They offer a playful dialogue between inside and outside and draw attention to the building’s rich architectural history. High ceilings, wood-truss framing, and open floor plans hidden above insensitive hung ceilings have been returned to their former grace, befitting of their new design studio use and inspire innovative thought. 

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Status: Built
Location: Stanford, CA, US