A theater, arcade and full kitchen: Duke’s new dorm is all luxury

Elizabeth Anne Brown

Trinity House, Duke’s newest dormitory, features a pool table, table tennis and arcade-style video games. Photo by Chuck Liddy/News & Observer

Welcome to Duke University’s newest dorms, where students can unwind with arcade games, kick back in a private movie theater and feel like they’re living in a boutique hotel.

Trinity House, a far cry from the sterile environment of many college dorms, is part of Duke’s latest efforts to lure new students by offering luxury amenities. Colleges around the country are making similar upgrades as they compete with each other for students.

The $34.5 million Trinity House opened to students in January, replacing three dorms that have been in use since the early 1900s. With 250 beds, it ranks as the largest residential building on Duke’s East Campus and will house one of every seven incoming freshmen.

“To me this place feels like the end of one of those extreme home makeover shows, minus the deserving family,” said Liz Corrao, a junior who lives at Trinity House.

The vision for Trinity’s design was “whimsical, not formal,” said Joe Gonzalez, Duke’s dean of residential life. Its mounted papier-mâché bear heads and purple-spotted “study pods” certainly aren’t standard issue.

The lounge features a full kitchen, while ping-pong and pool tables compete with an arcade and gaming suite for students’ attention. The 25-seat movie theater can be used for everything from seminar classes to Netflix binge sessions.

“It’ll be a great place to watch March Madness,” Gonzalez mused.

Trinity House, Duke’s newest dormitory, features a movie theater with reclining chairs. Chuck Liddy cliddy@newsobserver.com


Trinity House is the latest project in campus-wide renovations that began during former Duke president Richard Brodhead’s tenure. The university spent $50 million to gut the Crowell dorm and $90 million to revamp the West Campus student union, where students now enjoy a crepe bar and cucumber-mint water on tap.

Rubenstein Arts Center, a $50 million facility that opened this semester, offers spring-floored practice rooms for dance groups, a screen printing studio and dark rooms for photographers.

All eyes have now turned to The Hollows, a West Campus dorm project that promises to make Trinity House pale in comparison. The $100 million complex, set to open in the fall of 2019, will house between 400 and 500 students in suite-style apartments.

Despite the efforts, Duke rarely earns a spot on “best dorms” lists. Current darlings of The Princeton Review include Scripps College in California, where students live in Spanish mission-style halls with balconies and “mosaic-paved” internal courtyards, and the University of Alabama, where sorority houses employ on-staff bakers.

The renovations at Duke are all about supporting the “residential experience,” Gonzalez said. “We have not been overly concerned with what other institutions are doing.”

Gonzalez said Duke wants Trinity House to feel like home, and the challenge is to replicate the close-knit community atmosphere found in smaller dorm buildings.

Trinity House, Duke’s newest dormitory, features a full kitchen. Chuck Liddy cliddy@newsobserver.com


Like other Duke dorms, it costs $4,247 a semester for a double-occupancy room. at Trinity House. That’s $1,061.75 a month, just a few hundred dollars shy of the median rent price for a house in Durham, according to real estate database company Zillow.

On par with the previous six years, Duke approved a tuition hike of about 4 percent for the 2017-18 school year, bringing the total estimated cost of attendance to $72,710.

Trinity House is now home to upperclassmen returning from study abroad and other programs. But starting next fall, it will house freshmen.

For now, the house and its residents are still working out some kinks.

“Not complaining about living in ‘Megadorm,’ but with the marvelous arcade and movie theater, it seems a tad strange that there are no printers at all,” Brigitte Blanco, a junior who moved into Trinity House this month after a semester in Amsterdam, posted on a Duke Facebook group.

“I can’t print my assignments, but at least I can shoot dinosaurs in Jurassic Park.”


Elizabeth Anne Brown writes for the News & Observer, where this article originally ran.