Northwestern College, Rowenhorst Student Center

Orange City, Iowa

Northwestern College’s Rowenhorst Student Center began its life as a factory and was converted to a student center in the late ‘70s. It had unique, high-quality materials and was used frequently.

In the 21st century, video games have more appeal than pool tables, and plasma screens and personal computers have replaced big-screen TVs in student centers. Consequently, ADDITIONAL INFORMATIONCOST PER SQ FT$124.10FEATURED IN2008 Educational InteriorsINTERIOR CATEGORYStudent Centers/Service Areas building became highly underused. The low ceilings, circuitous paths and dark colors added little to a largely vacant and lifeless building. Even the facade was so anonymous that most people drove by not knowing the building existed.

The design solution creates a vibrant, colorful facade with a clear entry statement. It was designed to include materials and colors common to some of the college’s other buildings.

Inside, all 44,000 square feet were reconstructed. A simple, straight, clerestory-lighted spine was cut through the roof and the core of the building. All spaces inside were reorganized, and new functions were integrated to generate more student traffic.

The building has become the antithesis of its former self. Once low, dark, circuitous and lifeless, it now is voluminous, and filled with light and student activity.