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Whereas conventional student unions focus on programmatic questions, this design seamlessly integrates campus life with that of the experience of the student. Acknowledging the university’s goals and site limitations, the design seeks to create an extension into the campus landscape as well as an iconic building reflecting the values and aspirations as the central gathering place for the campus and city of Knoxville, Tennessee.  


From both externally and internally, the building is conceived as a vehicle to foster interaction and connection among daily campus life. Thus, the architectural promenade becomes the driving force of this proposed design. Analyzing the broad student interactions and movements across campus in conjunction with the distinct programmatic questions produced a unique solution to the spatial organization of the design. An iconic translucent volume floats over a grounded plinth, that acts as a single identifiable prism of activity; the plinth below is at the same time sculpted to engage the multiple approaches and levels of pedestrian and vehicular access to the building. Routes and avenues open and splay the building and landscape, providing unique gathering spaces and marking the entries and circulations to the student union.


Arising from the specifics of the program and the daily life of the student, the design creates a vibrant and open environment -- one that encourages dialogue, connections, and creative exchange. A continuous lobby, containing a monumental stair, carves up through the plinth and translucent volume. The stairs, along with the various programmatic elements extend the dialogue between the spaces and activity to a broader audience, allowing for personal explorations into the daily life of the student. Each space becomes a theatre, a place to celebrate the specific activity within. 


Student Union

University of Tennessee

Knoxville, Tennessee

500,000 sq. ft.

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