Potential Design Concept
The proposed design concept was created following a highly collaborative design process that included the development and review of three different concept options. The final plan combines strengths from each option and creates a long-term vision for the University of Montana University Center (UC). The recommendations proposed in this plan create a framework to achieve the themes and recommendations from the Priority Assessment.
The three main entrances – North, South, and West – will be renovated to remove the existing exterior stairs that block views into the building, cause maintenance and accessibility issues, and confuse wayfinding. The stairs will be consolidated as enclosed, accessible fire stairs. New two-story, transparent glass entries will be created at all three locations. Exterior grading will be modified to make these at-grade entrances on the north and west sides of the building. The renovated South Entrance, which must remain between the First and Second Floor levels, will include a new elevator to provide access to the First, Second, and Third Floors. New Third Floor space over the renovated North Entrance will serve as consolidated UC Administration Space. New Third Floor space over the renovated South Entrance will serve as a new Alumni Boardroom.
A new northeast addition will expand the footprint of the UC east of the North Entrance and north of the loading docks. This new space will allow the consolidation of the existing two-story Bookstore to a single floor on the First Floor, with a new entrance at the northeast corner of the building directly from the existing parking lot. ASUM and Student Organizations will be collocated on the Second Floor above the new Bookstore. These programs will benefit from their proximity and be grouped with a new Multicultural Suite (The Branch Center), meeting rooms, and student group lounge space. The Third Floor Ballroom will be expanded to the perimeter of the existing building, and a rooftop garden on top of the new addition will support Ballroom functions. This addition will also include two new egress stairs that will meet the egress needs of the new addition as well as the current deficit of egress capacity for the Third Floor.
A smaller addition on the southwest corner of the UC will be combined with the reclaimed space vacated by ASUM on the First Floor and Student Organizations on the Second Floor. The First Floor space will become the new Big Sky Lounge, which will become the featured student gathering and program space at the University of Montana. Changes to the exterior grading will allow for increased transparency and daylighting, direct access to outdoor gathering/dining/programming space, and views toward University Hall and The Oval. The Second Floor space will be re- utilized as a new, large Multi-Purpose Room, prefunction space, and lounge space. These spaces will also have direct access to a new outdoor terrace and will increase transparency, daylight, and great views of University Hall and The Oval. The roof space over this area will be utilized as a new outdoor patio or garden space that will be great for gathering and as an extension of the Third Floor conferencing resources. The new addition will also include a new grand fireplace that services the First Floor, Second Floor, and the roof garden.
Food Court and Commons
The UC Food Court and UC Commons remain in place but should receive a complete renovation. An overall renovation should explore modern trends with healthy and made-to-order food. A re-imagining of the food court should include considerations for visible food preparation and micro restaurants. All of the existing furniture should be replaced with a more dynamic and variable dining environment. A range of comfortable seating options should be developed with Wi-Fi and power available throughout. Flexibility, technology, and programming considerations should be made in order to allow for use of this space outside of dining hours.
The UC Theater should remain the same size, but increased flexibility should be achieved by replacing the existing fixed seating with retractable seating. It should continue to function as a theater with tiered seating, but should be able to be transformed into a banquet/reception room when the seats are retracted. This will expand the number of event types that can be hosted in the theater and prove valuable when used in tandem with other major events. Adjustments to the concessions and green room area will allow for the creation of a service hall between the Theater and the Ballroom. This new service hall should allow an additional access point to the Ballroom and service access directly to the Grand Foyer, which is not currently possible.
The retail environment should also be improved by opening the existing isolated cluster of retail shops to the expanded atrium and lounge space. The already successful UC Market should be enhanced with a new café-style seating area, which should also connect to an outdoor seating area by the South Entrance.
The northwest corner of the Second Floor is proposed to be a recreation of the Tech Lounge, now combined with the Computer Lab, SAIT, and the copy center. The new space should be open to the atrium to encourage more use of the available technology. Breakout meeting rooms and a smaller Computer Lab should also be available for quiet study or sound sensitive group learning. The adjacent Art Gallery should have an improved location for increased visibility. Flexible wall systems should also be considered to open up and be integrated with the atrium and Tech Lounge.
Universal infrastructure upgrades should be made to respond to the proposed building transformation, replace aging systems, and improve sustainability.
Façade improvements should be made to the existing walls to create a cohesive architectural identity with the proposed additions, increase in daylighting and views, and the construction of an efficient building envelope.For a more in-depth look at the UC Master Space Plan, click here.