Strategic Design of the UIS 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 is:
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 needs to serve many different goals, needs, and priorities, the building has very few single-use spaces. Program areas intentionally overlap and interweave, and the building contains 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, fit into the eastern end of the building, shifting more opaque elements to one side. Whether visitors are inside or outside the building, they have wonderful views of the Quad to the north and recreational areas to the south. This open design enhances the social nature of the building. The two-story open lounge connects the building’s spaces, creating the dynamic heart of the building and campus.
Supportive of Social Interaction
Prior to the Student Union opening, students, faculty, and others had few places to gather, creating a lack of “social density.” Situated at the crossroads of campus, the Student Union addresses 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 uses 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 is 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 has the Mr. Keith and Dr. Shirley Baer Green (or “living”) Roof with vegetation and a growing medium over a sloped membrane. This roof provides insulation, helps to lower air temperatures, and lasts 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 has a rainwater reclamation system that takes advantage of the roof’s slope. Also in consideration of LEED approvals, lighting is designed to meet the USGBC’s very stringent requirements.