Sumit Singhal loves modern architecture. He comes from a family of builders who have built more than 20 projects in the last ten years near Delhi in India. He has recently started writing about the architectural projects that catch his imagination.
Beacom School of Business & Theodore R. and Karen K. Muenster University Center – The University of South Dakota in Vermillion by Charles Rose Architects Inc.
December 7th, 2011 by Sumit Singhal
Article source: Charles Rose Architects Inc.
The Muenster University Center, designed by Charles Rose Architects, is at the heart of campus life at The University of South Dakota. The 76,000 square-foot student union, completed in 2009, provides a central location for many essential student services; it houses campus dining, a bookstore, student lounges, comfortable study rooms, function rooms, an informal performance venue, a cafÃ©, and a grand ballroom. In addition, it is home to the offices of the Dean of Students, Student Government Association, Student Activities Center, University Housing, and University Event Planning.
The building occupies an important site within the campus. To the north the building addresses the primary east-west avenue of Vermillion and is a perimeter for the campus; to the east the glass facades of the second floor ballroom and dining area below act as entry beacons to the campus and to the historic north-south mall which is punctuated visually by Old Main to the south. The south side of the building frames two new quadrangles: to the south-east, north of the link lab which connects the library to the University Center, is a more intimate courtyard, with a dining terrace and an outdoor classroom; to the southwest, the building forms the edge of a large collegiate open space, which replaces a large parking area.
The building provides multiple scaled venues for various activities from impromptu poetry readings to music performances to lectures. In addition to the smaller spaces within the building, the grand ballroom can be sub-divided to accommodate small as well as large activities or performances. This grand space, which cantilevers over an outdoor dining space, provides compelling views of the campus and Vermillion beyond. The link lab connects the University Center to the University Library, acting not only as a technology resource center but also as a primary circulation path during the long, cold winters.
As the primary food service location on campus, the design provides a variety of dining areas; on the ground floor, a common cafÃ© faces southwest onto the quadrangle and serves as a common gathering place. The cafÃ© opens to a terrace and a formal garden area. For wintertime use, a fireplace on the east wall of the cafÃ© provides a hearth for the University community.
The facade is constructed of a regional stone, Sioux Quartzite, which links the building to the history of the University: the stone was used in grand fashion for the majority of the historic buildings on campus, including Old Main, and the historic quarry was re-opened to produce the stone used in this project. The foundation system of piles makes use of recycled concrete from a demolished campus building.
Charles Rose Architects won the national competition to design the new business school for The University of South Dakota. The Beacom School of Business was completed in the fall of 2009. The design for the building and site plan reflects two aspirations: a building that provides a dynamic professional environment, with forms and materials that convey excellence, adaptability, and a spirit of entrepreneurship; and a site plan that gives the school a powerful organizing effect on the USD campus.
Our siting of the building creates an important collegiate landscape with a newly defined quadrangle and path system. The new open space is a well-proportioned landscape that greatly enhances the overall campus plan. The siting establishes dramatic vistas on campus, creates an outdoor classroom for both the school and the broader campus community, and provides an organizing landscape that in turn suggests possible future building sites. In defining the new quadrangle, the building also acts as a buffer between a planted parking area and the new pedestrian landscape, and its entrances and interior circulation create portals connecting the two.
Inside the 75,000-square-foot building are state-of-the-art classrooms, conference rooms, faculty offices, laboratories, and a 176-seat auditorium. Spaces are flexible to accommodate the latest teaching and problem solving techniques. The overall interior design fosters interdisciplinary encounters between students, faculty, administration, and the business community. The centralized atrium, for example, is a multi-use space: a striking entry hall; a large gathering area for spontaneous or planned socializing; and a dynamic zone of circulation with dramatic stairs and a large glass walkway. In addition, the building circulation encourages interaction between large and small groups and provides small, informal meeting study areas on all levels. Integrated into the walls of the atrium, a large electronic ticker displays stock market data and event information, and a video wall will connect the school to world business events. The light-filled interior also provides a visual transparency that promotes access to the broad variety of activities within the building and the easy flow of information, deemed essential in today’s business environment. Michael Keller, Dean of the Beacom School of Business reiterates this idea: “This new building offers us a first-rate business school, helping us develop the region’s economy for the 21st century, an economy dependent on business innovation and entrepreneurial energy. The new building will support, encourage and incubate exactly that kind of energy.”
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