Wash U Opens New Buildings As $280 Million Expansion Nears Completion | St. Louis Public Radio

Wash U Opens New Buildings As $280 Million Expansion Nears Completion

Sep 27, 2019

Washington University students and faculty are using new classrooms and workspaces this fall, now that $280 million in construction projects are nearly complete. 

The construction includes new buildings for engineering, art and architecture students. The university also added a major extension to the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, a new welcome center, a cafe, an underground parking garage and a public green space.

The changes were made to the east side of the campus, adjacent to Forest Park. Before construction began, the site was dominated by parking lots.

“About two years ago, this was a series of parking lots, of buses, of pedestrians, of cars, of bicyclists, all with nowhere to go and nowhere to feel comfortable or feel like they were part of the campus,” said Jamie Kolker, associate Vice chancellor and university architect, on a tour of the refurbished campus. “It was a leftover, ad hoc, unplanned space that has been that way for almost a century.”

Weil Hall is the new home for the university’s Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts. It brings together students working toward graduate degrees in architecture and visual arts. The architecture students were previously split between two buildings on another portion of the campus, and the visual arts students worked off site, about 1.5 miles away. The new facility also enables the school to launch a graduate program in illustration and visual culture

“One of the key aims for Weil was to put the art and architecture programs into closer proximity, so that the students could more easily mix and see the sort of work their classmates were doing,” said Liam Otten, senior news director for the university’s arts and humanities programs. 

A central gathering space in Weil Hall includes a vertical garden. 

The new Sumers Welcome center employees a glass, curtain wall design.
Credit James Ewing

Another new facility is Jubel Hall, now home to the McKelvey School of Engineering’s Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science. Otten said the building allows for a “major expansion” of the program and puts it in closer proximity to the existing home of the Graduate School of Architecture and Urban Design. 

The buildings include extensive use of glass, with expansive sightlines into and out of the interiors. Kolker said the design of Weil Hall employs modern curtain-wall technology, while Jubel Hall combines traditional Collegiate Gothic architecture with contemporary styles to create a welcoming space.

The school’s Office of Sustainability, which previously occupied office space among dorm buildings, is relocated to the top floor of a new cafe known as the Parkside Café at Schnuck Pavilion. That brings the office closer to the school’s engineering and architecture programs, to facilitate better exchange among the three. 

“It’s this idea of breaking down the barriers between the disciplines and providing places for them to interact with each other,” Kolker said of the overall design of the expansion

The glass-enclosed Schnuck Pavilion (left) and Sumers Welcome Center sit near Jubel Hall and a pedestrian-friendly green space. All are newly built elements of the campus.
Credit Jame Ewing

Changes at the Kemper include a 5,600-square-foot extension that will increase exhibition space by 50%. The new space will be dedicated to temporary exhibitions, and the museum’s permanent collection has been rearranged in its existing space to provide for new thematic connections among artworks. The change most visible to passersby is a 34-foot reflective facade of stainless steel. Kemper Art Museum will re-open to the public on Saturday. 

Another new building for engineering programs is still under construction and could be open by the end of next year.

Jeremy can be found on Twitter @jeremydgoodwin.

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Correction: An earlier version of this story misidentified Sumers Welcome Center in a photo.