Northwestern College, Rowenhorst Student Center

Orange City, Iowa

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

In the 21st century, when video games have more appeal than pool tables, and the student-center big screen has been replaced with plasma screens and personal computers, the ADDITIONAL INFORMATIONCAPACITY1,500COST PER SQ FT$124.10CITATIONRenovation/Modernization CitationFEATURED IN2008 Architectural PortfolioSUB CATEGORYRenovation has been underutilized. The low ceilings, circuitous paths and dark colors made for a largely vacant and lifeless building. Even the facade was so nondescript that most people drove by not knowing the building existed.

The conversion started by creating a vibrant, colorful facade with a clear entry statement. The facade was designed to include materials and colors common to some of the college’s other quality buildings.

Inside, the space was reconstructed. A simple, straight, clerestory-lighted spine was cut through the roof and the core of the building. All spaces inside were reorganized. New functions that generate more student traffic were integrated.

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.

“The design team used one simple gesture to achieve many things. This building gives hope to campuses that there is an opportunity for regeneration.”--2008 jury