From its inception in the 1970s, the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey has been a ribbon of glass-and-steel buildings weaving their way through the Pinelands.

"There was a very open relationship with nature," said art and architecture professor Kate Ogden. "There are open-air passages in between the buildings and a lot of natural light along these huge banks of windows."

But for all its clean lines and natural light, Ogden said the campus lacked a "masthead building," a public space for faculty and students to gather. "People got very tired of that International style of plain windows and no ornamentation," she said.

As the school diverges from its linear footprint in favor of a quad-based arrangement of buildings, however, its new Campus Center has not completely abandoned the old ideals.

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"It's a take on that old style, but with a little more texture, more color and a greater variety of things going on," Ogden said.

Stockton President Herman J. Saatkamp, Jr., said the Campus Center was designed to be a bridge between the college's past and future.

One of the most visible examples is the three-pronged tree motif that recurs throughout the building, etched in glass doors and used in the capitals atop each of the exterior and interior columns. And while Stockton's familiar nature-inspired logo has changed, Saatkamp said the old design still appears at the center of the new logo.

"We didn't need them, but it's allegorical," he said. "Here is a building that is really tied to the history of the institution."

Saatkamp said a reverence for nature - the Lodge at the Falls in Yosemite National Park provided inspiration for the Campus Center - can be found throughout the new building.

The cement-cast exterior mimics the look of stone, sustainably-harvested wood was used throughout the building's interior and expansive glass ceilings bring natural light into the building's core.

Perhaps most importantly, the Campus Center was constructed using sustainable building materials and techniques.

Project Manager Andrew Tucker, of the Princeton-based KSS Architects, said the school is pursuing a gold certification through the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program.

Signs scattered throughout the building inform students and visitors about the building's green landscaping, stormwater management, super-insulated roof and wall construction and sustainable building materials.

But the real achievement, Tucker said, is the Campus Center's "grand presence."

"The President wanted a building people would want to take their picture in front of," he said. "It feels grand, but at the same time I'd say the ... stone and wood panels on the inside makes you feel welcome."

Tucker said the central portion of the building, the Grand Hall, was designed to have the feel of a national park lodge, complete with a large stone fireplace engraved with images of the school's past, present and future.

"It's a big living room with big, fluffy furniture," he said.

Saatkamp said it was important to strike the right balance with the Campus Center because it will serve as the bridge between the new quad and the old college.

"The building will always be the Campus Center," he said. "Once the quad is built, it will become the center of campus."

Although she will miss some of Stockton's old ways - having a spread-out campus with people of many different vocations mixed together - Ogden said the new Campus Center does a good job of integrating elements of the college's past and future.

"The college really needed cafes and public spaces," she said. "That's one of the things that's going to be nice with new building - having a place for students and faculty to meet and eat and hang out in nice, beautiful spaces."

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360 degree views of the Campus Center

360 View of outside the Stockton Campus Center
Click image to view outside of the Stockton Campus Center
Photograph by Michael Ein

360 View of inside the Stockton Campus Center
Click image to view inside the Stockton Campus Center
Photograph by Michael Ein