Over the last decade, universities across the US have turned to architects to design new campus buildings to update their identity (see Dorms Designed By Starchitects), something extremely valuable to both campus administrators and students. So, when the State University of New York at New Paltz planned an expansion to its Student Union Building, Ikon.5 Architects designed a structure that would completely transform the university’s image from non-site-specific state institution to something unique and recognizable—better reflecting the school's progressive mission and exceptional regional landscape.
From afar, the commons appears as a sharp, multi-faceted crystal that echoes the tectonic character of the Shawangunk Mountain Ridge seen in the distance. Situated between two brutalist concrete buildings, the glass structure acts as an illuminated gateway and gathering space for students to enter and move through the older campus buildings.
To encourage collaboration and productivity, Ikon.5 substituted a structural stress skin in place of obstructive load-bearing columns to evoke the open feeling of a living room. Zahner, an internationally acclaimed engineering and fabrication firm who provided the uniquely patinated surface and panel system for Steven Holl's Daeyang Gallery, fabricated a similarly unique pre-patinated copper surface to match the blue-green glass of the building's facade. Windows by YKK are inserted into each panel, creating a transparent exterior that lends to a rigid form.
A transparent ceiling constantly reminds students of their context. And after hours of rigorous work, students can relax and unwind with peers on stylish and comfortable chairs, couches, and tables provided by Bernhardt, Herman Miller, and Knoll.
Keeping in line with SUNY New Paltz's commitment to sustainability, the new building is designed for LEED Silver certification, incorporating radiant heating and cooling, photo-optic lighting controls, and substantial natural day lighting and views. Ikon.5's Campus Commons executes a successful balance between distinction and regard for context.