The University of the District of Columbia (UDC), Washington’s only public higher education institution, opened its new Student Center in January 2016. Located at the intersection of Connecticut Avenue and Van Ness Street, the building acts as a gateway to the UDC campus and new source of pride for more than 5,000 students. Designed by CannonDesign’s Arlington office in association with DC-based Marshall Moya Design, the building is the centerpiece of a ten-year, campus-wide renovation aimed at establishing the university as a national model of sustainability while raising the school’s profile as a selective four-year university.
“This building is a symbol of where we want to be and what we want to represent in terms of our role with the District,” said UDC president, Ronald Mason Jr. “It’s state of the art. It’s attractive. It’s sustainable. And it’s in a location that gives us a face into the broader community.”
The design goal for the student center was to create a building that serves as a figural place-maker to identify the university as well as adhere to the university’s high standards for sustainability. The architectural design is composed of a combination of masonry, glass and bronze metal that modulates between the institutional nature of the campus and the pedestrian nature of the street. A clock tower rises high above the building, marking a new urban square soon to be teaming with students.
Sustainable design features are woven throughout the student center, including a 14,000 SF green roof; photovoltaic panels; an expansive rain garden; toilets that flush with captured rain water; and locally sourced, reclaimed and recycled materials. The building is positioned to be one of only a few LEED Platinum student unions in the country.
Inside, the 83,000 SF building houses areas for campus life, student government, career services and other student support functions, in addition to mixed-use retail, a conference center and ballroom, and a fitness and wellness center. Spaces are designed to encourage students to plug in and focus on academics, as well as to interact with peers they might not otherwise get the chance to meet.