Big Plans, Big Audience, Big Support
When the West Virginia University Alumni Association decided that it was time for a new alumni center, they understood the importance of history, tradition, and “place-making” and hired IKM Incorporated Architects to work with them to incorporate all three elements into the design. With more than 165,000 graduates worldwide and ever increasing enrollment at the University, the Alumni Association needed space to meet the growing needs of alumni, friends, and the University community.
The design team was up to the challenge. IKM had a knowledge-base of data and experiences to draw upon for their ideas, having designed numerous buildings on college and university campuses, as well as conference centers, banquet facilities, offices, meeting rooms and kitchen facilities.
Two months of intensive effort by members of the WVU Alumni Center Task Force and the design team culminated in a comprehensive program and schematic design. The design team engaged Alumni Association board members and staff in a collaborative, participatory process aimed at discovering the best possible design responses to the opportunities presented by the site, the program and the budget.
IKM worked with the Association to provide analysis and evaluation of three different sites for the new building. Design workshops followed a clear three-step methodology of “Understanding, Exploring and Deciding.” In addition, the design team and task force made benchmark visits to two recently constructed alumni centers to learn from other universities’ recent experience. Early renderings were produced to enable the development office to reach out to the University community for donations and to build excitement for the new project. Later in the design process, the University commissioned IKM for a computer-generated animation, or ‘fly-through,’ to incorporate into a DVD video for promotion of the project.
As the architects, IKM was asked to participate at board and donor events to convey the design intent and to answer any questions stakeholders had about the Center’s features.One Association board member said, “[IKM] has been focused, energetic and responsive from the beginning. As professionals, they have tendered their expertise, candid opinions and guidance, and still maintained the client’s charge as the priority. Their dedication to this project has, at all phases, been readily apparent.”
Currently under construction, the $12 million project will result in a 44,000 square foot iconic facility located less than 400 yards from the Milan Puskar football stadium, on the Evansdale Campus easily supporting indoor and outdoor activities. As alumni and visitors approach the new center they will be drawn to the landmark bell tower evocative of Woodburn Hall on the West Virginia University main campus. Featuring a monumental brick entry gate, pedestrian-friendly piazza, a central courtyard garden with an outdoor fireplace and multiple terraces on the exterior, the new facility establishes a positive first impression for returning alumni and visitors. The interior is organized in two wings: an Alumni House and a Great Hall and features pre-event spaces, a large banquet hall, a full-service kitchen, a club room and multiple meeting rooms.
Roger Hartung, AIA, principal-in-charge of the project, says “It truly has been a collaborative effort with the Alumni Association, the contractor, and IKM working as a team.” With IKM’s successful design, the Alumni Association is confident that the new Center will enhance the hundreds of events, meetings, award ceremonies and other special occasions it hosts every year. It will allow growth in programs, enable more campus wide events and serve as the home of future generations of West Virginia University alumni.