This comprehensive renovation repurposed an unoccupied 1960s era dormitory to create a dynamic center for technology services and learning. Located in the heart of the UNC Pembroke campus, the three-story West Hall was among several options reviewed by UNCP and the design team to determine the most cost-effective and adaptable solution for consolidating the university’s data and IT services. The comprehensive renovation transformed the 40,659-sf facility into a highly sophisticated technology hub and Instructional Innovation Center, housing UNCP’s entire IT department, faculty / student learning centers, online education offices, living laboratory space, and some of the largest classrooms on campus.
The transformation from dorm to technology center definitely qualifies as an ‘extreme make-over.’ The project’s comprehensive programming process involved campus administration, user groups, facility staff, students, and key design team members. Prior to being work on the project, the university’s CM-at-Risk partner provided value engineering to assist in the evaluation of existing conditions, sequencing of demolition, and approach to construction.
Work on the 40,659-sf, three-story structure involved extensive demolition, essentially gutting the interior. All interior partitions were removed, along with existing utilities (HVAC, electrical, plumbing). The project required extensive asbestos/lead abatement and removal. An exterior masonry wall was removed on one side of the building to allow the installation of an expansive glass storefront.
Once ‘rebuilding’ began, West Hall received a new roof; elevator; new HVAC, electrical, and plumbing; fire suppression system; and structural upgrades to comply with current Building, Energy, and ADA Codes. The new and improved West Hall boasts high open ceilings, exposed beams, as well as collaborative gathering spaces, larger classrooms, and meeting areas.
Special flood-proof doors and waterproof construction details were included on the first floor to protect the investment and assure that the building will rebound quickly after intense storms.
In addressing West Hall’s renewed purpose as UNCP’s technology hub, the architects reflected on the early days of data entry, drawing inspiration from the narrow rectangles of a computer punch card to create interest in the building’s facade. The existing facade presented a monotonous, single-sized, repetitive window placement. Pulling inspiration from the punch cards, the team carefully carved out sections of building face, creating expanded openings in select areas of the façade.
Again, drawing inspiration from the progression in computer technology, the design team sought to convey the evolution of the industry by referencing binary code on the redesigned building facade. An insulated glass storefront replaces the original brick masonry along the building’s central façade, allowing natural light to illuminate the building interior and creating a strong connection to the campus. The new design energizes and enlivens the building, creating interest and reflecting the building’s new purpose.
West Hall’s design includes a roof pop-up, acting as a light beacon at night and providing access to much-needed natural light during the day.
The building’s main circulating spine resides in the center of the building, identified as the student commons area. The design team extracted a two-story volume in the central section of the building to create clear circulation and multi-level connection within this collaborative student zone. The third story space became a large student commons space situated between two classrooms.
When given the chance, an older building can often surprise in its ability to take on a new use. This adaptive re-use project at UNC Pembroke is a great example of such a transformation. The facility’s design fulfills the university’s vision for innovation in instruction and provides the space needed to consolidate all university data and IT services.
Awards & Recognition
- 2019—AIA Charlotte Citation Award for Adaptive Reuse