Southwest Missouri State University, Robert W. Plaster Student Union Renovation and Addition

Springfield, Missouri

This project involved the complete renovation of the existing student union on the 16,000-student Southwest Missouri State University campus. The best feature of the union was its center-of-campus location. The new student union was to have inviting space, clear wayfinding, user-friendliness, and a strong new identity inside and out. The $12.8 million construction ADDITIONAL INFORMATIONCOST PER SQ FT$89.86FEATURED IN2000 Educational InteriorsINTERIOR CATEGORYStudent Centers/Service Areas involved 142,439 square feet.

Originally constructed in late 1949, the student union had undergone two major expansions and renovations. By the 1990s, the union was physically and functionally outdated, and no longer served as the heart of the campus. Three additions were planned: a food court on the north, opening to a newly developed “mall in the middle” and transit way; a multipurpose theater; and an informal lounge on the south end of the ground floor. The project also included complete replacement of the mechanical and electrical systems.

The concept of the redesign was to redirect campus pedestrian movement patterns through and alongside the union, while enhancing the edges of those routes as pedestrians pass through or by the union.

The interior of the Robert W. Plaster Student Union features new atriums created from demolished portions of the existing building. The main route through the building passes through these areas, creating exciting landmark spaces for lounging, dining, shopping and relaxing between classes. Materials are simple and straight-forward, and were selected to balance the issues of a limited construction budget, visual appeal and long-term durability.

The student union is once again fulfilling its role as the hub for campus life at Southwest Missouri State University. The significance of this project is the dramatic transformation of the character, image and function of the building.

Photographer: ©Gayle Babcock