A new university center was envisioned to bridge the original Case Institute of Technology and Western Reserve University campuses and create a facility that serves as the heart of campus. The project’s objectives, including program, space, and connectivity, were integrated into the design as a natural extension of the existing campus. The project completed the physical federation of the two precedent institutions by creating a building that is a “bridge” connecting the two prior campuses.
The primary goal of the project was to create a heart to the University providing a unique and iconic facility at natural cross road of student paths; to bring students, faculty and community together for informal and formal collaboration. From this larger context, the team developed a planning concept that provided entry points on each side to the building, creating an inviting, open, and transparent design (there is no “back of the building”) which specifically relates to the natural student paths across campus and site-specific context given the challenging site and close proximity to existing adjacent buildings. Within the building, an open pathway with visual connectivity allows ease of access to a variety of informal group study spaces, large and small conference rooms, a 450-seat multi-purpose room, and an open informal food service area.
Contrary to the site’s benefits, the location posed challenges due to aging infrastructure. These challenges included a below- grade parking structure, steam tunnel system, below-grade electrical distribution, and service tunnels. The parking facility had to remain fully operational during construction, posing significant limitations in modifying the post-tensioned cast-in- place concrete structure. Creative solutions were required as the new building could not add any additional structural load to the existing parking structure. The materials selected emphasize functionality, aesthetics, and efficiency. Glass, a key aesthetic feature, was selected to make the building more open and inviting. Where glass was necessary but not efficient due to orientation, a simple but elegant double-wall was utilized to mitigate solar load issues. Due to existing infrastructure, light- weight aluminum plate cladding was used in a rain-screen application representing machine-like refinement. Efficient precast concrete panels were used in areas where distinctive aesthetics would differentiate program type, for example, the stand-alone restaurant open to graduate students and the community. A notable sustainable feature includes a green vegetative roof that reduces heat gain and absorbs run-off while enhancing the concept of a site-integrated building.