From Bulky to Beautiful, Three Campus Building Transformations

Universities are constantly adapting to student needs, evaluating their research priorities, revamping their course offerings, hiring new talent. The campus is reflective of this too, growing and changing with the student body and university needs. Campus renovations provide some of our favorite, and most dramatic, before-and-afters. They’re some of our most gratifying too, as the projects impact the experience of so many students and campus communities.

Many university renovation and modernization projects share themes: the challenge of making old structures feel new again, operating within budget constraints, and creating designs that resonate with the collegiate communities they serve, to name a few.

Meet EWU Pence Union, SPSCC Center for Student Success, and UW Husky Union Building – three projects that converted bulky buildings into beautiful campus centerpieces.


Dark, dated and unwelcoming, the original Pence Union Building (PUB) was desperate for a renovation. The maze-like building included two wings comprised of the original building constructed in 1968 and a major addition built in 1994. The building hardly inspired university pride and didn’t serve as the central campus intersection it was intended to be.

The 1968 wing required the most extensive rehabilitation work. The team traded the maze-like layout for an open concept celebrating natural light. An impressive “main street” atrium connects the two wings, features a three-story transparent wall and grand central staircase, and makes a stunning impression from the two heavily trafficked entrances.

The atrium buzzes with energy and options for student engagement. The dining center contains restaurants, a mini-market, and cafeteria, and is conveniently located adjacent to the new commuter lounge. The like-new PUB offers better visibility to student organizations with offices and meeting space. A computer lab is available for student use, and the transformed ballroom on the ground floor can also serve as a conference center for the community. Throughout the structure, salvaged elements merge with contemporary aluminum, glass and wood.

Outside, the two entrances and an activated courtyard encourage better connection between the campus mall, stadium, residence halls and public transit.

The project is LEED Certified and was recognized with a 2019 AIA Washington Council Citation Award,  a 2019 Boston Society of Architects Education Facilities Design Citation Award, and a 2020 AIA New England Design Award

See the full story here.

Project Team: Owner: Eastern Washington University / Architect: Perkins&Will / Civil & Structural Engineer: Coughlin Porter Lundeen / General Contractor: Leone & Keeble, Inc. / Mechanical & Electrical Engineer: MW Consulting Engineers / Kitchen & Food Service: Stafford Design Group / Lighting Design: Blanca Lighting Design / Landscape Designer: Swift Company



At South Puget Sound Community College, the campus’s most central, and the only permanent, building was also its oldest. As the college master planned with the architect, they saw an opportunity to embrace an already-evolving curriculum by reorganizing the campus. Together, the team reimagined the 90,000-square-foot welding and auto shop, converting it to the new home for student services, e-learning, contemporary library, and administrative offices.

Shedding its industrial motif, the building was stripped back to its good bones – the existing steel frames – and new metal cladding was applied. A multi-story glass curtain wall surrounding the primary entry plus the raised roof allow an abundance of daylight to flood the interior. An emphasis on preserving the mature trees surrounding the center provides an additional connection to nature. Multiple entries welcome all visitors to the center, wide sidewalks and pathways reestablish connections with other campus buildings and services, and generous plazas encourage interaction with other students and nature. Upon reopening, the Center for Student Success became a student hub and the beautiful new heart of the campus.

See the full story here.

Project Team: Owner: South Puget Sound Community College / Architect: SRG Partnership / Structural Engineer: Coughlin Porter Lundeen /  Civil Engineer: AHBL / Cost Consultant: Davis Langdon (AECOM) / Acoustical and A/V Consultant: Greenbusch Group / Landscape Architect: Murase Associates / MEPT Engineer: WSP Seattle

Images © Lara Swimmer


Located in one of the campus’ busiest areas, the UW Husky Union Building (HUB) is a cornerstone of student life, housing student activities, food service, administrative offices, auditorium space, and more. Preservation of the building’s history was paramount, from the historic façade and 1949 Gothic arches to a 1950s mural and a subterranean bowling alley. The team excelled in addressing every unique condition and delivered a 21st century student life center.

Multiple earlier renovations of the building generated a mishmash of antiquated systems and a patchwork of programs, creating a way-finding nightmare. A central atrium once again became the organizational spine, connecting dining areas, entries, and primary meeting spaces. It also enhances ventilation and daylighting. Glass enclosed entries beckon students to engage in the revitalized student life center.

Glass and steel staircases seem to float between floors, connecting the grand lounge with fireplaces on the first floor to a food court, entertainment center, and informal gathering-studying areas above. Multi-tasking ballrooms can be reconfigured with the push of a button to create a large concert venue, and a 5,000-square-foot auditorium on the first floor can accommodate a variety of university or community functions. These gathering areas were reoriented to showcase views of the campus.

The project is LEED Gold certified and was recognized with an ACUI Facility Design Award of Excellence as well as an AIA Civic Design Award.

See the full story here.

Project Team: Owner: University of Washington / Architect: Perkins&Will / Civil & Structural Engineer: Coughlin Porter Lundeen / General Contractor: Skanska USA Building / Mechanical & Electrical Engineer: Affiliated Engineers, Inc / Landscape Designer: GGN

Images © Benjamin Benschneider