Duke University West Union Building / 2016

ArchitectGrimshaw Architects

The renovation and expansion of the Duke University West Campus Union is part of the university’s larger effort to renew landmark facilities throughout the campus.  The new design expands upon the historic building’s original use, as the social center of West Campus, creating a revived vibrant center for student and community engagement. In addition to the historic renovation of the legacy wings, originally completed in 1931 and featuring the historic stone masonry common to the Duke Campus, the project also includes a new addition inserted into the building’s original core. The increased floor area expands the dining offerings and provides extended spaces for social events and student organizations. The addition is conceived as a contemporary glass and steel volume, with a conceptually woven interplay of steel, glass, and terracotta fins, and interfaces on three sides with the legacy wings.

Front collaborated on the design for all of the facade systems on the project from design development through construction administration, including the steel and glass curtain wall typologies, window walls, skylights, glass balustrades, structurally expressed facade steel both at the interior and at the exterior, and exterior terracotta fins. The most prominent south-facing façade system is an innovative 37ft (11.3m) tall, suspended curtain wall. Glass dead loads are supported by vertical stainless steel rods, hung from a facade beam at roof level, which is supported by a series of base-supported built-up steel mullions, transferring all curtain wall loads back to the ground level. Lateral loads are resisted by a series of horizontal glass fins, suspended between the mullions. The exterior terracotta and steel fins extend up two sides of the four story building and wrap over the upper-most skylight, visually framing the south-facing curtain wall, directing views outward, and providing solar shading to the interior spaces.

There are two main skylight systems on the project. The upper-most skylight is a custom hanging system with integrated gutters, which is supported on steel hangers from an exterior steel cage frame structure above. The lower skylights wrap the new core on three sides in plan and are supported on a series of custom built-up steel façade trusses. These skylights fold up, in two locations, to enclose protruding stair volumes, and also extend to enclose circulation bridges.