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Home / Top Projects of 2010 / Campus collaboration: Yellowjacket Union – University of Wisconsin-Superior

Campus collaboration: Yellowjacket Union – University of Wisconsin-Superior

Architects work with UW-Superior students to design new building

Yellowjacket Union – University of Wisconsin-Superior

Photo by Mark Heffron

Bigger isn’t always better.

The $24.7 million Yellowjacket Union at the University of Wisconsin-Superior has a 30 percent smaller footprint than the outdated student center it replaced, but the space it provides offers students greater opportunity to mingle and collaborate.

When the decision was made in 2002 to create a new student center for the northern Wisconsin campus, school officials looked to the students for guidance on what the design should include.

Through surveys and workshops held with Milwaukee’s Workshop Architects Inc., students indicated they wanted more flexible meeting and event spaces, a way to blend spaces throughout the building and an open and bright facility.

Peter van den Kieboom, designer with Workshop Architects, said the resulting building plan allowed for “visibility of activity” by “bringing small activities into the larger space to reach the vitality there.”

This translates into a great room equipped with a stage for performances that flows into student organization and administrative suites complete with a fireplace, conference rooms, lounges and more.

The decision to build the new union smaller than the one it replaced was more cost effective and better reflected the close-knit environment at Superior, the UW System’s smallest campus, officials said.

“It’s a tight community in Superior,” van den Kieboom said. “I remember in our first meeting we gave the students three different options (for the union) and they chose the first one and said, ‘That’s our union.’ From that first sketch there was continuity in the project.”

The 84,600-square-foot wood, brick, steel and glass building includes a number of green elements, per the students’ request, such as an 18,000-square-foot, plant-covered roof. The design maximizes use of daylight to fulfill students’ request for a bright space while reducing the need for additional energy use.

“Response has been outstanding,” said Gail Archambault, director of the Yellowjacket Union. “From the perspective of the students, campus and the greater community, it’s interesting to see people enter and stop and look around. It’s very warm, energetic and bright.”

The finished product, which seeks Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design silver certification, has been a great fit for the campus, Archambault said.

“We looked to define what made the campus unique,” she said. “Our goal obviously was to create a space where more people would want to spend time in.”

— Shayna Miller

Location: Superior

Submitting company: Workshop Architects Inc., Milwaukee

General Contractor: Howard Immel Inc., Green Bay

Architect: Workshop Architects Inc.

Engineer: Arnold & O’Sheridan Inc., Madison

Owner: Wisconsin Department of Administration – Division of State Facilities, Madison

Project size: 84,600 square feet

Project cost: $24.7 million

Start date: April 7, 2008

Completion date: Jan. 6, 2010

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