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Carnegie Mellon University Fifth and Clyde Residence and Neighborhood Commons

LTL Architects

Pittsburgh, PA, United States

August 2021


LTL Architects (Design Architect)


PWWG Architects (Architect of Record), Silman (Structural Engineer), ME Engineers (MEPFP Engineer), Merritt Chase (Landscape Architect), Langan (Civil Engineer


Carnegie Mellon University


Ed Massery


To create new residential communities across campus, Carnegie Mellon University sought a team to design the university’s first new ground-up residence hall in nearly 20 years. The project’s goals were two-fold.
The new Fifth and Clyde Residence was to add at least 250 beds to the university’s inventory to create a residential community in a neighborhood slightly apart from main campus, where students would feel connected to each other and to campus life. While most students living in the Oakland neighborhood are in apartment-style or off-campus housing, Fifth and Clyde would be a place for students to continue aspects of the social community of First Year dorm experience in their upper class years.
Additionally, the design team was to develop a master plan and design principles to guide the implementation of The Neighborhood Commons, a new type of social space for CMU, as a network across campus. The first iteration of the Commons was to be built as part of the Fifth and Clyde project. The brief was to encourage engagement among students, faculty, and staff. The Commons were to be architecturally specific and a destination on campus that could provide much-needed program space for dance, meditation, and music practice at various scales. It was to be a place where everyone in the CMU community could come together, relax, or engage in creative endeavors.


This project for a new 264-bed residence hall and a unique type of collective academic support space, a Neighborhood Commons, embraces its prominent location along Fifth Avenue, a main thoroughfare that defines this urban site in Pittsburgh.
The site presented the challenge of being located on an urban corner with competing desires for the building to be biased toward Fifth Avenue in order to be inviting to CMU students circulating from main campus and to also protect the privacy of Pittsburgh residents on Clyde. The corner had to be active relative to its urban site but restrained and respectful of its neighbors. The building’s massing was developed as a sheared C-Shape which could simultaneously pull back from the corner to create a private entrance, and produce a courtyard on the west side to engage neighboring a CMU building and newly landscaped lawn. These two outdoor spaces work to draw members of the community and forge a campus quad in an urban setting.
The double height community spaces are reflected on the exterior and provide architectural expression to the importance of creating communities within the larger residence hall. The interlocked double-height spaces at the southeast and northeast corners connect the kitchenette and lounge to two hallway communities of students. Because they are staggered, students can circulate through these spaces to any floor in the building, expanding their community beyond their residential unit.


The design team developed the guiding principles for the new Neighborhood Commons to improve the quality of the student experience by providing a space that is open to all on campus, intensifies social interaction, promotes the university’s identity, and fosters wellness and play. The Fifth and Clyde Commons now sets the example for a place that fosters a range of programs and is architecturally organized to link individual programs into a greater collective --- principles that allow further flexibility and innovation as the Commons are deployed across campus.
The project is located beyond the traditional campus boundary, and more embedded in Pittsburgh’s urban fabric, and has been successful in being a good neighbor to the large civic and religious institutions along busy Fifth Avenue and by being sensitive to the quiet residential streets to the north and east of the site. The planning and implementation of this project have set an example for how the university can both grow and improve its surrounding urban fabric.
Because the building did not have access to core campus infrastructure, it joined an adjacent project to create an energy micro-district, an innovation for CMU that can be replicated on other projects as the campus grows. Fifth and Clyde houses a chiller that also serves an adjacent and recently renovated residence hall, while the nearby renovated residence hall houses a district-wide boiler to supply hot water to both buildings. By sharing the systems, efficiencies were found in equipment sizing and energy shedding of peak load through chiller demand limiting.

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