St. Louis is home to one of the premiere technical colleges in the United States, Ranken Technical College. Its campus is situated in North St. Louis where the school has invested in transforming and redeveloping the neighborhood. As part of the campus expansion, a “hybrid” educational facility houses a microenterprise program to provide students with work-based training to develop 21st-century technical and manufacturing skills. Part office, part classroom, part workshop, and part laboratory – the building supports the local economy by helping up-and-coming businesses while training the next generation of technical professionals.
JEMA’s design explores the use of diagonal geometry to distinguish the structure from its context, while maintaining a form that is contextual in massing and height. The design creates dynamic and inviting moments at the West and East ends of the site. The West end is the building’s main entry. The corner of the building is “peeled” away and clad in a semi-transparent, perforated metal. The semi-transparent metal creates a sense of enclosure, provides a space for an entry plaza, relieves solar heat gain, and denotes the entry.
The East end of the building is “unveiled” by taking the metal cladding and lifting it up as it moves east, creating a glass corner that during the day is a portal view into the student classrooms. At night, the corner becomes a beacon, a “welcoming lantern”, that invites the community and signals the presence of the college expansion into the neighborhood.