Tulane to give University Center a Facelift

April 9, 2001

Kathriel Brister <i>Hullabaloo</i> contributing writer

Tulane is planning a $15-28 million facelift for the University Center over the next few years. For the past three years, the university has been consulting with architects about remodeling the 40-year-old building.

According to President Cowen, "The UC [is] ... a central part of the Tulane undergraduate experiences as a place to study, socialize and generally congregate. Given the age of the building and the changing needs of the campus, it [seems] like an ideal time to renovate and expand the UC."

The tentative design plans dictate that the renovated UC will be environmentally sound and energy efficient. Plans include a system of movable windows covering much of the building, a system of roof shutters and a computerized electrical system. The roof shutters, or "louvers," will be in a parasol configuration and will open and close according to the position of the sun. The new amenities will cut down on heat gain and energy losses.

According to Henry Fry, director of campus planning and resident architect, "The plans will try to implement a system natural to the New Orleans climate." The buildings size may increase with the addition of another floor, expansion of the bookstore into Pocket Park and perhaps integration of part of Fogelman Arena.

In addition, the area behind the current computer lab may become a 24-hour study area with computers. A theater could also be added. Architectural firm Vincent James and Associates created the plans for the new design, and Ove Arup & Partners will complete the engineering work. In fact, the existing plans created by Vincent James won a design award and were featured in the April 2000 edition of Architecture magazine.

The University Center, originally meant for a much smaller student body and a very different campus, badly needs the renovation, according to Vice President of Student Affairs and Dean of Students Martha Sullivan.

"The UC is a tired building, but it has good bones." In the last 40 years, the UC has undergone at least five major renovations. In 1966, the university added the Rathskellar; in the 70s the university removed the bowling alley in the basement; in 1985, a series of cosmetic renovations took place; and in 1986 the university built the student-funded Pocket Park.

In addition, the area in which the bookstore is housed once contained a swimming pool. According to Cowen, "The UC is an important building on the uptown campus, especially for undergraduate students. Its expansion and renovation would add both architecturally and culturally to the campus in very positive ways. It would strengthen the UCs role as the social hub ... for students, faculty and staff, as well as visitors."

Construction is tentatively slated to begin in January 2003.

Tulane University, New Orleans, LA 70118 504-865-5000