Legos were always at the top of Jeremy Brunel’s birthday wish list. That’s not surprising given that his grandfather had a woodshop where Brunel spent countless hours making model planes, boats and buildings out of whatever materials were available.
As a high school student, he spent weekends and summers on construction sites helping his father, Rob Brunel ’70, who owns a land surveying business.
Encouraged in his passion for the arts and sciences at O’Dowd, Brunel decided to pursue a career in architecture and earned a bachelor’s degree in the discipline at Cal Poly Pomona. He’s currently working at Pfeiffer, a firm that specializes in cultural and educational projects such as performance arts buildings, concert halls, music conservatories, libraries, museums and schools.
“I really enjoy working on these types of projects because they present unique and diverse design opportunities to deliver a building that is tailored to the specific goals of the client. The collaborative nature of these types of projects is something that I really enjoy. It is also particularly rewarding when designing spaces that are used by students, teachers and the public to pursue their interests – whether it is a library that helps a university provide state of the art study environments, or practice rooms for dancers to hone their talents,” he said.
Since joining Pfeiffer in 2013, Brunel has worked on the Kaufman School of Dance at USC and the Chapman University Musco Center for the Arts. His most recent project was the $45-million Colorado College Center for Immersive Learning and Engaged Teaching, an expansion and transformation of the existing Tutt Library, which was completed in August 2017.
“The Tutt Library was about much more than just books, although 25 percent of the college’s permanent collection still resides in the building,” Brunel said. “The project goals were to dramatically increase the available study space while providing updated spaces for the college’s academic services. The renovation was also an opportunity to upgrade the library’s technology for the 21st century.”
The library was designed as a Net-Zero Energy facility, meaning that in one year it will produce as much energy as it consumes, and takes the shape of a ribbon that begins at the entry courtyard and climbs up and over the existing structure. “The ribbon cladding was inspired by the local geography of the Garden of the Gods Park and the rich sandstone that is ever present throughout Colorado Springs,” he said.
Design of the library took approximately a year and included four phases – programming, schematic design, design development and construction documents.
“I was fortunate to have worked on the project for conception to completion,” Brunel said. “I got a tremendous sense of satisfaction and joy when I overheard the students walking throughout the library commenting on how may cool study spaces there were.”
Next up for Brunel is an addition to the University of Colorado, Boulder, Warner Imig Music Building. “The addition is approximately 72,000 square feet and includes rehearsal/performance spaces, practice rooms, and administrative offices. We are currently in the programming and concept design phase. The project is scheduled to open in 2020, which coincides with the music school’s 100th year anniversary,” he said.
Brunel says his professional challenges include managing deadlines and working within budget. “We have a responsibility to our clients to deliver a project that is constructible and within their budget. Often our design aspirations and the budget do not line up. While this is a challenge it forces us to think critically to develop alternate methods, details, designs or approaches to the same problem,” he said.
“But one of the best parts of being an architect is that you never stop learning. A day rarely goes by where I don’t encounter something new. Architecture is a fun and creative field with limitless opportunities,” he said.
Meanwhile, Brunel has keenly followed recent O’Dowd library upgrades.
“I am proud to see the commitment that O’Dowd is making to students and their study spaces. People do not learn the same way they did 10, or even five years ago. Libraries across the nation are making the transition from book repositories to places for people. It is clear that O’Dowd is keeping up with the times by purging some of the outdated/uncirculated collection in exchange for study spaces,” he said.
“A student’s leaning environment can have a significant impact on their success. Not all students thrive in the same type of study spaces. Some may excel in individual/quiet study, while others may be better suited in a group/social setting. An inspiring learning space can quickly become a student’s favorite place to spend time. Any environment that engages students and promotes their curiosity is a significant asset. O’Dowd’s commitment to their students and their education is evident in the library renovation,” Brunel added.
Meanwhile, Brunel believes that his O’Dowd education set him up for professional success.
“Architecture and design is a process driven profession, and having the ability to rapidly analyze and assess design decisions, details, and materials is essential,” he said. “It seemed like every instructor at O’Dowd was always pushing us to think critically at all times. In math, science and art – my three favorite subjects – I was constantly pushed to do my best. I am very proud to be an O’Dowd alumnus and know for a fact that the education I received while there was an important stepping stone in my career,” he said.