FSU’s new student union draws inspiration from the past while rising to the future

The new student union is expected to open next spring, and when it does, students will be welcomed into a facility designed to surpass its predecessor in terms of stature, utility and aesthetics.

For more than a year, a chain link fence fitted with a privacy tarp blocked full view of the building of Florida State University’s new student union.

Beyond that fence is a scene of near-perpetual motion: a parade of machines – from huge dump trucks to pint-sized Bobcats – roaming the site. The voices of dozens of workers accompany the warning beeps of the trucks, and occasional thuds punctuate the proceedings.

It’s a general cacophony of construction – and progress.

The Union is currently only a draft of its final form, an imposing framework of metal, concrete and brick that rises 80 feet at its highest point. It is slated to open next spring, and when it does, students will be welcomed into a facility designed to surpass its predecessor in terms of stature, utility and aesthetics.

The original Union University building opened in 1952 when FSU enrollment was below 5,000 students. An expansion followed 12 years later and although there was further growth in facilities (the Union included dining and game rooms, hair and beauty salons, salons, offices, meeting rooms and an Olympic-size swimming pool), the increase in the number of FSU students has long exceeded the Union’s ability to meet its needs.

“When the new Student Union project is completed, it will be an incredible asset to our students and a hub for collaboration and engagement on campus. I am delighted to see the progress and to know that our students will truly benefit from the space and the amenities it will offer.

– Vice-President for Student Affairs, Amy Hecht

“When the new Student Union project is completed, it will be an incredible asset to our students and a hub for collaboration and engagement on campus,” said Amy Hecht, vice president of student affairs. “I am delighted to see the progress and to know that our students will truly benefit from the space and the amenities it will offer.”

Hecht said the new Union builds on welfare initiatives undertaken by the FSU in recent years. These initiatives include ensuring that students have positive social outlets, opportunities and environments.

“The Union will play a key role in our efforts to become a healthier university community,” she said.

Associate Vice President for Student Affairs Brandon Bowden is a former student who came to know the former FSU union both as a student worker organizing events in the building’s ballrooms and in as a regular student taking a break between classes.

Today, Bowden helps oversee the project, making sure the building meets the goals of the university.

“We have always seen the Union as the campus lounge, a place where students can come to meet, build communities and know they are always welcome,” he said. “It was becoming more and more difficult to accommodate people in the old Union because we were running out of space. “

According to Bowden, the notion of community has served as a guiding principle for this project since its inception.

“The university has been very intentional in designing the building to facilitate community building through features such as lounge space, seating, to facilitate shared workspaces and larger tables for more than people can sit in relation to the individual space, ”he said. “The idea is that space helps facilitate engagement so that when you cross over, you are surrounded by opportunities to engage with others.”

Engagement, connection and community will also be made easier with an abundance of wireless technologies permeating the building, including plug and play between laptops and internal displays and projectors.

A grid of scaffolding now covers the south side of the Union.  The workers are ready to add the exterior of the red bricks found throughout the campus.
A grid of scaffolding now covers the south side of the Union. The workers are ready to add the exterior of the red bricks found throughout the campus. (USF Photography Services)

Natural ambience is a fundamental building principle, as designers allow natural light to enter where the design allows. From the 48-foot atrium that welcomes visitors to the main entrance, to the ground floor that will house the new Club Down Under, a 12-lane bowling alley, sports grill and art center, natural light will be present. Exposed stairs and a set of decks will add to the spacious, open-air atmosphere of the building.

There is also a space that most students will never see that houses the machinery, equipment, and facilities that will operate the building.

“There are air conditioning units that will be large enough to work indoors, boiler pumps for hot and chilled water throughout the building and generators that run on natural gas,” said Dane Chrestensen, chief of assistant project at Ajax Building Company. “There will be a kitchen that can organize events inside the Union and on campus. ”

For his part, Bowden said he was particularly impressed with the building’s large ballrooms. At roughly one-third of an acre, ballrooms are designed to accommodate large-scale events like conferences and banquets, but can be segmented with dividers for smaller business.

“The previous ballroom capacity was 1,000 on a good day,” Bowden said with a laugh. “The new ballrooms will easily accommodate over 1,500 people. “

Adjacent to the ballrooms is a lobby, with floor-to-ceiling windows that bathe the space in natural light. Lobby doors lead to balconies, each offering sweeping views of campus, from the heart of Legacy Walk to Doak Campbell Stadium in the distance.

The third floor was marked the floor of the engagement. It houses a space that will be used for meetings of large groups, including the student senate. Although it is located towards the center of the building, the designers ensured that the space also had natural light and a view of the campus.

The new student union is expected to open next spring, and when it does, students will be welcomed into a facility designed to surpass its predecessor in terms of stature, utility and aesthetics.
The new student union is expected to open next spring, and when it does, students will be welcomed into a facility designed to surpass its predecessor in terms of stature, utility and aesthetics. (USF Photography Services)

Also on the engagement floor, Bowden said about 30 FSU student groups will have permanent space in the Union. He was quick to add that the FSU is home to around 700 registered student organizations and clubs, and anyone can access Union facilities.

The FSU bookstore will be located on the ground floor. Student business support staff will occupy a nearby space, as will a Starbucks coffee shop. Students will have a choice of five restaurants: Pollo Tropical, Panera Bread, Seminole Pies, Panda Express and Sports Grill.

The FSU Computer Store is an Apple Authorized Campus Store, while the Trading Post convenience store will offer students everything from fresh produce to sushi.

The interior decoration of the building will include artistic contributions from the students. Bowden said details were being finalized, but an art competition will be held to determine which student works will be on display inside the Union.

The FSU has also issued a “call for artists” to commission works of art that honor the Seminole Tribe of Florida and the relationship between the tribe and the FSU.

“We are thrilled to honor the Seminole Tribe of Florida through original artwork and showcase it in a prime location on campus,” Bowden said. “We plan to make a selection of the winning piece soon. ”

The exterior of the Union was designed keeping in mind the existing campus architecture and uses materials and design elements drawn from the dominant FSU aesthetic, including the iconic red bricks found throughout the building. campus. The Union will use 607,910 bricks.

The western end of the building will feature a colonnade and a market square, which will host concerts and performances. The unique tradition of FSU, Wednesday’s market will return and be held on the terrace located on the south side of the building.

“One of the things that sets the state of Florida apart is its welcoming campus,” Hecht said. “I think the Union will be a beautiful new campus center that will bring us together and strengthen our traditions and our community. ”

For more information visit https://new.union.fsu.edu/.


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