Reading Area Community College Visioning
Unlike suburban campuses which often stand as islands awash in concrete and grass, the campus of Reading Area Community College is defined by two unique edges. The western edge is natural and here the curve of the river pushes campus toward the city. The Schuylkill River Trail provides calming respite from the stress of academic life and gives students, faculty and staff an opportunity for fresh air. The eastern edge is urban and here campus faces South Second Street in Reading. Though properties neighboring RACC are primarily industrial, the two blocks parallel to campus between Penn and Franklin streets are residential row homes.
Reading is no stranger to flooding, and the area that makes up RACC’s campus has been hit several times by historic floodwaters. As recently as 2006, the school bore the brunt of heavy flooding at a high cost. The master plan considers repositioning buildings toward the eastern edge of campus in order to minimize future flooding as much as possible. This brings the campus closer to the urban edge and positions RACC as a proactive community partner. Further, it expands the campus’s nature edge and extends the beautification along the riverbank. Good design often shows us the opportunity in challenges. For RACC, stilted buildings can be designed to simulate the arches of the Penn Street Viaduct which will bring a cohesive tone to campus architecture while presenting a structural solution. This purposeful approach also creates a special architectural style which will be immediately recognizable as RACC’s own.
The image above is a conceptual site plan of a potential future campus as a manifestation of the goals of the strategic plan. Academic and administrative buildings sit perpendicular to the Penn Street Viaduct on the urban edge of campus. Two buildings parallel the bridge and form several quads which stretch to the campus’s nature edge. The southern most quad is an activity quad, designed as a dynamic space for campus life. Next is the academic quad which features a classically collegiate walkway. To the northern end of the bridge is the arts quad bookended by the Miller Center for the Arts and the Schmidt Training and Technology Center.