The first time I toured the new UDC student center, it was love at first sight. Before the grand opening in January, Erik Thompson, UDC’s vice President of Real Estate, took me through the building. I looked on in awe as sunlight streamed into the stunning atrium.
Then, at the evening ribbon-cutting ceremony on January 21st, I looked on as architect Michael Marshall, the student center’s co-designer and founding partner of Marshall Moya, spoke about this project. Marshall had started his college career at UDC, ended up at Yale Architecture, and opened his firm in Georgetown. Emotion overcame him as he described what this building meant to him – a homecoming, a closing of the circle. He could not finish.
Fearing I had been blinded by Marshall’s and my own love for this building, I asked my neighbor Ann Elkington to apply a more critical eye. Elkington is an industrial designer whose work you see all over our Metro system, and also a photographer. Here is her take:
From what little was visible going up beyond the wooden construction barricades, I was not convinced that this building was going to be anything special. And was I ever wrong!
Although chain link has replaced the wooden barricade, it allows the sweep of the front apron to be seen (despite the snow in these photos); the curving stairs lead up from the street to a large covered veranda, perfect for outdoor events, with a great view of Connecticut Avenue to UDC’s plaza beyond.
Inside, the building is Scandinavian in feel, both in its design and in the ways natural light is employed. Pale wood is used a great deal, from the horizontal slat wall treatments to the blond wood lockers in the fitness center’s dressing rooms.
The sitting/gathering areas are furnished with thought and care. The furniture is simple, durable and attractively modern with the fabrics echoing the Scandinavian theme.
There are bright, well-lit rooms for student gathering/studying. There is a south-facing fitness studio, complete with exercise machines and plans for community-inclusive classes in such disciplines as Zumba, pilates and yoga. The “ballroom” – a large meeting/conference hall – is a lofty space set up for audio-visual presentations; the acoustics are amazing.
Come spring, when the snow and the last pieces of construction detritus are gone, this building is going to be a lift for UDC from its squat, Brutalist architectural heritage of 40 years ago.
Well done, Marshall Moya and CannonDesign!