University of Houston University Center Transformation
The new University Center, considered a “home away from home for the student body”, is a special space for the University of Houston that has been redesigned to transform the existing facility into the central focal point of the campus. The transformation includes an indoor arbor space, outdoor plaza, large theatre, meeting space, lounge space, retail, and dining. Facade renovations included both re-cladding and over-cladding of the existing structure with perforated screens. Two new 60 ft. pedestrian bridges connect the north addition to the existing building. The site was made ready with utility relocations which were coordinated to maintain service to the campus. The adjacent public street was modified to add a median opening and a redesigned drop off entrance was developed for improved access to the site.
In addition to designing an economical steel structure on an accelerated schedule to mesh with numerous school year-driven completion deadlines, Walter P Moore collaborated with the architect and builder to reduce demolition time and costs - as well as reduce the volume of construction waste diverted to a landfill – by finding a way to structurally avoid demolition of existing basement walls and slabs. Instead, new columns supporting the north addition were constructed directly atop of the existing basement floor. We also solved a long-standing expansion joint maintenance concern by stitching two buildings together to eliminate the structural movement creating the problem. The site design accommodated a new plaza area that was designed to serve large public gatherings, a key part of university life.