Responding to student population growth and its evolution from a commuter campus to a residential one, UAH, Mackey Mitchell Architects, and local architect TurnerBatson created the Charger Union. This vibrant, award-winning student center was conceived as a nucleus and is conveniently located for the entire community to share in student life activity. The $20 million, 96,000SF project has become an iconic building within an established greenway that helps "bridge" the historically divided campus. Program elements include a high-tech e-gaming room, retail food service, lounges, meeting and study spaces, the campus bookstore, student activity suites and administrative office space, and a 350-seat movie theater, as well as ample programmable outdoor space.
Charger Union unites the academic and research focused sides of campus into a cohesive whole with a bridge component that funnels students through the building, increasing social interaction. A two-story atrium brings in natural light and serves as an organizing element for easy orientation. Mackey Mitchell led a series of focus groups with interactive exercises , reinforcing the campus desire that this building should be student-focused. Involving the student body in an "eco-charette" helped determine that a LEED Silver rating could be accomplished. "Once the building's design process was underway," said Taylor Reed, Student Government Committee member, "everything was inspired by the students, for the students."
Truly the heart of campus, the student center celebrates community and establishes a newly defined sense of place. The design is made complete with an inspired branding program that integrates graphic design, art, and signage - all working together with the architecture, interior design and landscaping, truly expressing the "Charger Spirit." Jurors in the 2014 AIA Birmingham awards program recognized the project with a Top Merit Award commenting that, "the architect handled complicated program elements with competency and executed good site scale with connections to the larger campus."
Passion + Perspective
The presence of this building will transform the student life experience for many generations of UAH students.
- Regina Young Hyatt
Dean of Students, Associate VP for Student Affairs, UAH