The Auburn Hills campus of Oakland Community College wanted to create a student services center that would attract, engage and retain more students to stay on campus. With over 6000 students commuting to school every day, they needed a place for them to hang out, socialize and make connections between classes. IDS has had a strong working relationship with OCC for over 20 years and was asked to create an energetic venue that could house a dining hall, tutoring services, student organization/meeting and study spaces, and social areas. The result was a brand new Student Center with a soaring social space that connected four existing structures together: two classroom buildings, the library and the bookstore.
Students are welcomed into the two-story space through an identifiable, central entry way and are immediately enveloped by upbeat patterns, shapes and colors that create energy and warmth. The spiral staircase and conical-shaped elevator tower make an additional statement about the overall vitality and connectedness of the Center, and the architectural metal trellises overhanging the seating areas create smaller, more intimate meeting spaces. Perforated wood walls shine with multi-color LED lights to create a sense of movement and energy in the space. The dining area has a bistro vibe to it.
Completed in March 2008, this 28,000-square-foot facility presented a few challenges to the IDS team of architects and engineers. To connect buildings D & G, they had to manage the different heights and floor elevations of the two. “There was an existing underground utility tunnel where we excavated a hill”, explained IDS mechanical engineer Ron Cyrowski. “We had to lower the ceiling height in the tunnel so we could match the different floor heights in the new space.”
The interior solution to the height challenge was to use varied one- and two-story ceiling heights and three different floor levels, utilizing stairs, ramps, and various flooring materials to knit it all together. Because of the floor height differential, the ramps were curved rather than straight to accommodate the required length. One of the interesting by-products of this functional requirement was that it led to curves as a motif throughout the entire space! ‚ÄúThere are 160 different work points on this project”, explained IDS Design Architect Don Root. ‚ “These are the points that the contractor uses to determine the radius for every curve in the building.”
Selecting a brick color that would complement the other four connecting buildings was more of a design opportunity, and IDS team found materials that blended with these existing finishes in a module that became OCC and standard for any future building development.
Glass walls add the finishing touch and unify the four buildings into one, offering an energizing glow both day and night. Fin tube radiation is utilized as a two-level heating source and appears to be a natural part of the glass structure. Light sensors were used to provide energy savings, and other sustainable elements include solar panels and a wind turbine to provide electricity. There is a large monitor on the wall that tells the students in real-time how much energy is being generated at any given time.
The new Student Center is now the most popular place on the Auburn Hills campus. “It was fun because we created a space that students love” Root commented. “The first day that the new Center was open, food service expected to sell 50 pizzas. They sold 250 that day and every day since then!” A real measure of success: IDS was recently commissioned to begin a kitchen expansion in the Student Center to accommodate the exploding numbers of student meals.