UNION SOUTH RECEIVES COMMERCIAL DESIGN AWARD
Best Large Project
Location: 1308 W. Dayton St., Madison, WI 53715
Owner/Developer: Wisconsin Department of Administration
General contractor: CG Schmidt
Architect/Interior design architect: Workshop Architects
Engineers: Graef (structural), Arnold & O'Sheridan (MEP)
Consultant: Madison Environmental Group
Completion date: March 2011
Photography: Skot Weidemann Photography (interior), Mark Heffron (exterior)
Masterful. A model for student unions everywhere. The ultimate combination of beauty and functionality. Those are among the superlatives our judges used to describe UW-Madison's Union South, which they voted as the "Best Large Project" in the 2012 CDAs.
The 313,000-sq.-ft. structure delivers great value, according to our judges. If student unions really are the "living room" of a university campus, as they often are called, Union South might spawn a new generation of couch potatoes.
With its pocket lounges, coffee houses and dining options, arts and cinema entertainment, and 60-room hotel combined with outdoor pavilions, terraces, and a sun garden, it is an ideal site for Badger Bashes before and after football games.
"It's hard to believe they could put so much program space into such a tight site," marveled one judge.
Actually, CDA judges had several reasons to celebrate Union South.
They begin with a modern, sustainable environment with day lighting, and they continue with its pursuit of a LEED gold certification, which requires the reuse of building materials.
Union South was built with local materials such as reclaimed wood from old barns and stone brought from a quarry in Mosinee. That stone is prominently featured on the building's exterior, in the interior Sun Garden fireplace, and in the coffeehouse.
In keeping with the university's Wisconsin Idea, 88% of Union South's deconstructed building materials were saved from the landfill and recycled.
The judges were especially impressed that its architecture was conceived in collaboration with student users, and that local artists were commissioned to add unique Wisconsin design touches. This collaborative process, which involved surveys of more than 10,000 students, ensured that Union South reflected popular desires.
"This is a masterful integration of a very complicated program into a comprehensible whole," observed one judge. "There are exciting interactive spaces, and great use of natural light. There is evidence of a very collaborative program with users and clients groups involved in the decision-making. It's very 'uninstitutional' with a creative use of materials, and then a very muscular elevational treatment to stand out on the campus."
One judge loved the way planners tied in Memorial Union with the placement of painted metal tables on the Union South "terrace," but he offered even higher praise. "The exterior sightlines tied very well together, and the multiple selection of materials mixed very well," he stated. "They took away the institutional look of the original building and replaced it with a socially inviting venue."