Central Washington University - Wenatchee Higher Education Center
Architect: Contacts Without Company
The new Central Washington University - Wenatchee Higher Education Center is a co-location shared facility which provides approximately 5,200 gross square feet for traditional and adult education students from WVC and Central Washington University (CWU). Program elements include two distance education classrooms, open office work area with private offices, and conference room. The building is occupied primarily by CWU, however, the long-term goal is to provide the flexibility needed for changing programs and campus space needs. One of the greatest needs currently is for conferencing facilities. The design provides enough flexibility to allow for a conversion into a conferencing center in the future.
The building diagram is shaped by program needs and site geometries and is intended to be simple and practical. The design is comprised of three basic boxes: the classrooms and office work area, the restrooms and support space, and the central corridor atrium. The central corridor plays an important role in the design. It is the tallest of the three masses, allows abundant natural daylight to the interior space, and is a unifying element intended to "hold" the composition together. The relationship of these three boxes is key to the design concept. The restroom/support space "box" has been slid to the west end of the glass corridor to accentuate and allow for a larger glass wall and main entry statement at the east end of that spine, terminated with a raised outdoor plaza.
The existing campus context is mixed and challenging. Consequently, the new building takes its aesthetic cues from selected original campus buildings that are adjacent to the north, east, and south. Placing the new building at this location greatly enhanced an unsightly and underutilized area of campus and helped define the east edge of a future campus plaza and open space. The new building acknowledges future planned campus buildings with brick as a selected material for the scale and composition. The brick color was selected to be contextually sensitive to several existing campus buildings.
While the new building is rather small in size, it was important to the client that it had a certain "presence" on campus. The generous roof overhang at the central corridor, overall massing, and simple fenestration allows the building to have a more monumental scale.
The signature element of the building is the atrium room which borrows and reinterprets the glu-laminated beam and wood decking aesthetic from some of the original campus buildings previously mentioned. The generous roof overhang also provides adequate sun shading for the south-oriented expanses of glass in this more arid mountain climate. Exterior skin materials consisting of brick and corrugated metal are intended to be understated in detail, durable and economical. The brick detailing is intended to be simple and clean with soldier course lintels at the window heads and row lock pattern at the window sills.
Exterior plazas and drought resistant plantings in beds and raised planters complete the overall exterior composition and provide spaces for socialization, which was a needed amenity for the campus.