By Michelle Davey
The thousands of students, faculty, staff, alumni, visitors and perspective students who daily utilize Baker University Center may be testament enough to its impact on campus life. In case they're not, the awards help, too.
The latest came from the Association of College Unions International, which recently named Baker University Center the 2008 Facility Design Award winner. It annually distinguishes excellence in the design of student unions and other student-centered buildings on college campuses. The honor went to the designer firms -- Columbus-based Moody-Nolan in association with WTW Architects of Pittsburgh.
Rich Carpinelli, associate vice president for student affairs and director of Baker University Center, calls the honor significant.
"It speaks well of the planning and design, and it speaks well for Ohio University as an institution," he said. "It certainly puts us in the forefront of providing educational and social spaces for students on our campus."
Martha Blood, director of corporate partnerships at ACUI, said award winners had to demonstrate excellence in several different categories, all of which go deeper than mere beauty. The judges looked for student-centered facilities that encourage and support campus community and student learning. They also judge facilities on space use, creative design features and how collaborative the planning and design process was.
Those values indeed drove the Baker project and since have transformed it into a true hub of campus academically, socially and geographically, according to Carpinelli. Thousands visit Baker to take advantage of the building's services, while others get exposure to its layers of activity on their way from one level of campus to the other.
"We intended it to be the crown jewel at the center of campus, and it is," he said.
The association also evaluated buildings on how they fit into the existing context of their respective campuses. Baker brings a fresh interpretation to Georgian architecture's iconic red brick, stone trim and pitched roofs.
This is the fourth design award for Baker. In January 2008, Learning by Design, an organization recognizing excellence in educational facilities, awarded Baker with grand-prize honors. In 2007, the center also won two Golden Trowel awards from the International Masonry Institute, including the grand prize as best project in Ohio for the terrazzo floor art and another prize for its distinctive interior masonry features.
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