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Valparaiso University Welcome Center Interiors

CHALLENGE

As part of its plan to grow enrollment, Valparaiso University desired a facility to create a feeling of a campus “living room”, and a new campus gateway to serve as a gathering place, fostering a sense of community, and welcoming not only prospective students and their families, but also alumni and guests.

To honor the university’s past, present, and future, it was also desirable to create space to store and showcase key University historical and modern exhibits, serving as a complement to the artifacts already on display at Valparaiso University’s Heritage Hall.

SOLUTION

A 15,000-square-foot facility was designed by Shive-Hattery, to embody the campus “living room” concept; housing the Office of Admission, along with meeting and presentation spaces. From the initial design to the materials chosen, the Duesenberg Welcome Center was envisioned to be friendly and welcoming.

Interior design elements take their cue from the building’s exterior features. The Welcome Center lobby plays off of the gently sloping roofline. The roofline also helps define internal functions; the building’s public spaces are marked by high ceilings, while offices functions and small conference spaces are more intimate in scale.

To complement Prairie-style buildings on campus, the stacked limestone used on the exterior became an important interior component. Three large scale limestone columns defining the lobby represent the Valparaiso University “Pillars of Excellence”: Community of Scholars, Artists and Athletes, and Tradition of Service. Maple and cherry wood paneling and doors are incorporated, along with an orange-toned brick used throughout campus.

To add to the feeling of warmth, radiant floor heating was incorporated into the lobby, which provides warmth underfoot during cold months. The lobby also features a large fireplace and clusters of comfortable chairs, ottomans, and tables in browns and greens, positioned around oversized rugs, providing a multitude of types and sizes of gathering spaces.

The colors and design features are highlighted by a 16-foot high by 30-foot long mosaic titled “Lightfall,” which is inspired by Valparaiso University’s motto “in luce tua, videmus lucem,” which means, “In Your light, we see light”). The mosaic begins behind the Duesenberg Welcome Center reception desk and wraps around the corner, beginning the “main street” of the building. An interactive campus map in the central corridor is joined by a 60-foot-long wall-mounted timeline to visibly illustrate University history over the past 125 years, along with inspirational, engaging stories about Valparaiso faculty, staff, students, and alumni.

To convey feelings of invitation and friendliness, the lobby – the part of the building closest to the entrance drive – is surrounded by floor-to-ceiling glass. Upon approach, activity inside is visible day or night, making the Welcome Center a beacon of activity. This transparency helps foster enthusiasm and inclusion, especially during important times during the schoolyear, such as the beginning of classes and homecoming. The building transparency also creates a visual connection to the heart of campus: the Chapel of the Resurrection. From the Welcome Center lobby and presentation room, chapel views serve as a reminder of the Lutheran character and mission of the University.

IMPACT

The Duesenberg Welcome Center provides visitors and alumni the chance to get to know or reacquaint themselves with Valparaiso University, and gives those who already know the university a chance to reconnect in new ways. The Center also fosters a sense of community, by providing existing students a place to congregate.

The modern design, while visually reflecting a prairie-style vocabulary, gives Valparaiso University the campus “living room” it desired, and the space to support the needs of prospective students, alumni, and guests visiting campus.
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