Strategy for the Design of the Student Union
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:
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. The lounges, restaurants, and large multipurpose/ballroom space, centered and at the west end of the building, will have an open and transparent feel, so that whether you are inside or outside the building, you’ll have wonderful views of the Quad to the north and recreational areas to the south.
The building will have very few single-use spaces. Program areas will intentionally overlap and interweave so that the building will contain an almost continuous hive of activity, ensuring a dynamic social experience. Intended for use by every member of the campus, the building will need to serve many different goals, needs, and priorities, so the spaces will therefore be very flexible.
Boldly Student Centered
This building had its birth in student activism and enthusiasm. While versatile, welcoming, and designed for use by all campus entities, as well as by the community, the building is nevertheless primarily for students. By concentrating the student life spaces on the formal Quad axis, student life is emphasized and celebrated, and the students become the ornament of the building.
Strong on Social Interaction
Right now on campus, students, faculty, and others have few places to gather, creating a lack of “social density.” The Student Union will address that need. Situated at the crossroads of campus, the Student Union will become a destination for virtually everyone who comes to UIS, making it the social heart of campus, a place “to see and be seen.”
During the design process, care was 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 allow for 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.
With large transparent spaces, terracing outside, and overlapping functions inside, people will be able to see up, down, in, out, and all around the building. 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.
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 covered 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.