Design at Work; Wright State University

By: The Architect’s Newspaper

Robert Maschke Architects use bamboo and diffuse light to soften an institutional campus building in Dayton.

Rectilinear lines play off curved surfaces in Maschkees bamboo-accented redesign of this Ohio University admissions building. By: Matthew Carbone

Wright State University (WSU) selected architect Robert Maschke of Cleveland-based robert maschke ARCHITECTS to redesign and oversee the construction of its new Student Enrollment Center, which recently reopened in the heart of campus. This once dark building has been transformed into a light, dynamic, and inviting space.

“We were commissioned to give the university a cutting-edge image that would attract new students and keep current enrollment numbers high,” said Maschke. “These students want to enjoy convenient and cozy socializing areas.”

Maschke’s architectural design is so sharp a contrast to the former imagery of the enrollment center that one would hardly recognize the building shell and structural system remain unchanged. Most striking is the delicate juxtaposition of rectilinear angles, surfaces, and spaces against softer, curvilinear edges.

The signature bamboo wood surfaces bend around and through the space. Bamboo was chosen as one of the materials for its natural coloring, environmental benefits, and affordability.

Maschke played a key role in working with the university to reprogram the spaces in the enrollment center. The staff’s workspaces are now grouped together as teams. Homework hub rooms and other socializing areas were added for private meetings with prospective students and for current students to use as study space in the evenings. The building’s entrance and the concierge desk were relocated.

One more of Maschke’s key goals for the project was to increase the amount of lighting. All of the exterior windows were left open to the space to allow as much natural light as possible. Much of the artificial lighting is indirect—directed up toward the ceiling, diffusing down into the space. Sustainability studies show that indirect artificial lighting mimics natural sunlight and lifts morale in what would be

The privacy walls around group study rooms are constructed with a type of finely porous fritted glass. The elevator shaft was redesigned with a screen of multi-colored slats that shimmer as one travels up and down in the elevator. Another interesting detail is the fine joinery between matte white drywall surfaces and shiny white solid surface benches. It appears as though the bench bends up against the wall and then across the ceiling as one distinct object, made with two different yet white materials.

“We pushed and pulled the bamboo in the space,” said Maschke. The bamboo appears to defy gravity, while at the same time giving the stark white surfaces a warmer contrast. The white lattice ceiling surfaces emerge as though they break through the bamboo surfaces at times. The dynamism of these two contrasting materials in the space is articulated by a blurring of the walls and ceilings. The boundaries between the walls and ceilings are unpredictable and constantly changing.

The level of detail involved with this project is high, but the budget was held relatively low. Maschke and his staff provided details, three-dimensional diagrams, and drawings to make the construction process efficient.

The designers hope the dancing variety of materials and spatial effects make students feel alive, encouraged to be individuals, and empowered to be in control of their own education.

Stephanie Aurora Lewis

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