In collaboration with FGM as Architect-of-Record, Mackey Mitchell has re-energized student life at Western Illinois University. By connecting two residence halls with a glass-fronted dining center, the $24 million renovation has enhanced student interaction and improved security. Configured in a "racetrack" layout with traditional double rooms and hall baths, the two housing towers have a total of 1,120 beds. Both halls include special interest floors; Corbin Hall houses a fine arts and upper-division broadcasting living/learning community, while Olson supports the international student interest floor.
Before the renovation, the 1960's student union was vastly underused. Working with focus groups early in the design process, Mackey Mitchell created a new, single point of entry accessible to all students through a 500-seat dining pavilion. With large spans of curtain wall, the dining center has views to a nearby lake with lush landscaping. A variety of seating arrangements, a display kitchen with a chef who interacts with the students and an expansive, open plaza are all used for special gatherings or dining al fresco.
The dynamic redesign has not only invigorated the campus community, but has changed behavior patterns. Students now enjoy community dining whereas before, they would purchase food and take it back to their rooms. According to John Biernbaum, associate vice president for student services, "The Corbin-Olson renovation has been a game changer at WIU for our residence hall students. It has completely transformed the community into a beacon for faculty-staff-student interaction. In addition, it has helped tremendously with recruitment and retention. Because of its size, the building is also used for community functions and a variety of events."
You truly did turn a clunker into a Cadillac.
- John Biernbaum
Associate VP for Student Services, Western Illinois University