Facility Focus (Historic Renovations)

SUNY New Paltz: Wooster Hall

SUNY New Paltz: Wooster Hall

PHOTOS © TIM HURSLEY

The 75,000-square-foot, $36.7-million Wooster Hall at SUNY New Paltz is a comprehensive conversion by Croxton Collaborative Architects (CCA) of the university’s 1967 Brutalist-style Wooster Science Building (WSB) into one of the country’s most resilient higher education structures. Located in the academic heart of campus, the hall brings together the Departments of Psychology and Anthropology, student service offices and a dining facility, enclosing them within 96 percent of the building’s original “bones.”

“Remainder” buildings such as WSB are pervasive on American campuses; more than 40 years old and predating today’s design values, including the responsible use of natural resources and energy, ADA compliance elements, naturally lit learning environments, and resilience and security measures. “The assessment was made that, while WSB had good bones and architecture, it couldn’t be upgraded as-is for air handling and the other things needed for a 21st-century science building,” says SUNY New Paltz President Donald P. Christian. Complete demolition of WSB was avoided through design strategies that maintain the building’s 50-year profile on campus by retaining its core structure and surrounding pathways, renovating it in all other ways.

Programmatic flexibility and opening a new pathway to hyper-performance required the stripping away of nonperforming elements down to the old building’s skeleton, which was then almost entirely reused. A terracotta rainscreen exterior envelope, roof mechanical systems and natural light penetration to every square foot of occupiable space were added to allow the new building to achieve the highest levels of resourcefulness. The insertion of a three-story south traverse daylight “seam” running 250 feet east/west achieves its signature “commons” sunlit wall and lab, and dining and student services receive diffused north light.

Anticipating LEED Gold certification, CCA also designed and delineated the future pathway to AIA 2030 for Net Zero Carbon in the renewed new building.

This article originally appeared in the January 2017 issue of College Planning & Management.

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