Strategic Design of the UIS Student Union
Above: View from the upper level of the new UIS Student Union (please remember that design specifics, colors, furniture, and so forth are all subject to change).
The Student Union Committee, comprised of students, faculty, staff, and university leaders, has developed and adhered to the following strategies and goals. Based on their work, the Student Union will be:
Boldly Student Centered
While versatile, welcoming, and designed for use by all campus entities, as well as by the community, this building had its birth in student activism and enthusiasm and is therefore primarily intended for students.
Because it will need to serve many different goals, needs, and priorities, the building will have very few single-use spaces. Program areas will intentionally overlap and interweave, and the building will contain an almost continuous hive of activity, ensuring a dynamic social experience.
Bright and Spacious
To keep the spaces open and transparent, the biggest masses and program spaces, as well as service zones, will fit into the eastern end of the building, shifting more opaque elements to one side. Whether visitors are inside or outside the building, they’ll have wonderful views of the Quad to the north and recreational areas to the south.
This open design will enhance the social nature of the building. The two-story open lounge will connect the building’s spaces, creating the dynamic heart of the building and campus.
Supportive of Social Interaction
Currently, students, faculty, and others have few places to gather, creating a lack of “social density.” Situated at the crossroads of campus, the Student Union will address that need, becoming a destination for virtually everyone who comes to UIS, making it the social heart of campus and a place “to see and be seen.”
Care has been taken to ensure an easy flow through the building’s spaces. A core of functions clusters in the middle of the building, while open spaces around the edges form a natural pathway, creating a sense of discovery as spaces unfold.
Contemporary and Contextual
The UIS campus currently has postmodernist buildings oriented around a traditionally formal Quad. The Student Union will use contemporary forms and composition that respect the existing campus scale, character, and palette of materials, while also taking on its own identity as a non-academic building.
Simple and Elegant
The design of the Student Union uses simple forms and elegant gestures to create a powerful composition without becoming overly complex. As such, the Student Union will be a new icon for the campus, certain to stand the test of time without becoming a piece of dated architecture.
UIS is seeking a LEED Gold certificate (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design, awarded by the U.S. Green Building Council), both for the sake of the environment and in order to take advantage of energy saving measures. For this reason, the building will have a green, or “living,” roof with vegetation and a growing medium over a sloped membrane. This roof will provide insulation, help to lower air temperatures, and last much longer than other roofs—50 to 60 years rather than the 20 to 30 years most roofs last. The vegetation will most likely include wildflowers that will change throughout the growing season, adding to the building’s beauty.
To reduce storm runoff and eliminate water irrigation, the Student Union will have a rainwater reclamation system that takes advantage of the roof’s slope. Also in consideration of LEED approvals, lighting will be designed to meet the USGBC’s very stringent requirements.