Firms Compete to Design New Campus Life Center

Five architecture firms are competing for the opportunity to build the new Campus Life Center (CLC), which will replace the Dobbs University Center (DUC) by 2019, according to the DUC feasibility report.

For the past few weeks, the firms showcased potential options for the design of the CLC on display boards in Coca-Cola Commons — a part of an initiative for community involvement, spearheaded by Director of the DUC Ben Perlman.

“These panels are opportunities for firms to show their expertise, their ideas, their creativity and how well they connect it with Emory’s culture,” Perlman said.

The Selection Process

The executive selection committee — which includes the University’s Board of Trustees, University President James W. Wagner’s cabinet and several other administrators — will review the firms’ proposals and make a decision in April, according to the CLC website. The University aims to begin construction in late 2016, according to the report.

Originally, there were 25 to 30 firms competing for the bid but the executive selection committee narrowed the group to five firms, according to Perlman.

Community members examine model E. | Photo by Brandon Fuhr.

The committee first made a request for proposals in October 2014. According to the CLC website, the proposals had to create a space that welcomes students and enhances the campus aesthetic with “inspiring dining,” areas to “foster collaboration” and meeting spaces for large events. 

The five finalists — Grimshaw Architects, Duda/Paine Architects, ZGF (Zimmer Gunsul Frasca) Architects, Mackey Mitchell Architects and Bruner/Cott Architects and Planners — have been in contact with the University administration over the past five months to submit rough drafts and display boards, according to Perlman.

All of the proposals, according to Perlman, must fall within $57 million in construction costs. The feasibility study estimated a total project cost of $98 million, but that cost could change throughout the design and construction processes, according to Feb. 5 article in the The Emory Wheel

Photo by Brandon Fuhr
Photo by Brandon Fuhr.

In compliance with the feasibility report, all of the plans include demolishing the west end of the DUC, which includes Eagles Landing, Dobbs Market and the Coca-Cola Commons. As a result, there would have to be a temporary dining location in place of Dobbs Market, according to Perlman.

Dave Furhman, the senior director of University Food Service Administration, has recently been reviewing potential sites for temporary dining but said it is “way too early to have any locations identified yet.” 

As proposed in the feasibility report, the structure of the east end of the DUC would remain intact. The east end includes the Alumni Memorial University Center and the building containing the Mary Gray Munroe Theater.

Community Feedback

At the foot of the display boards were comment boxes for feedback. One of the questions on the comment sheets was: “Do you think it is a good fit for Emory?” Each proposal on the panel was not associated with a firm, but rather a letter.

Perlman said the proposals will be ranked based on their votes and all paper and online feedback will be shared with the executive selection committee. The committee will consider this ranking during the firm selection process, according to Matthew Early, vice president for Campus Services. 

“The committee is very interested in the community’s feedback, and that is why it was important to put this unique architect selection process in place,” Early said. “The new Campus Life Center will serve the community, and it is critical to take into account everyone’s view in order to make the best decision on which proposal is the best fit for Emory.”

Perlman emphasized that the display boards are only concept designs, and that the final product may be much different than the projections.

While Perlman acknowledged that the proposals offer innovative ideas, he added that they still need to be adjusted to meet the University’s needs.

“If you look at the displays closely, they all have really good qualities and they all have some questions that need to be asked,” including whether the proposed plan demonstrates a creative, efficient and sustainable use of space, best serves the needs of the community and fits into the campus landscape.

According to Perlman, some students and faculty came to the display boards with strong opinions, while others were excited about all of the ideas displayed. 

Some Emory students said they believe the DUC is not structurally sufficient in its current state.

College freshman Fernando Herrera said he would like to see, among other features, a larger eating area.

“The current DUC is a mediocre building that needs serious renovation,” he said.

“To be honest, I didn’t really think much of the plans for a new building until I saw the models in Coke Commons last week,” College freshman Zach Goland said.  

Overall, Goland said he was in favor of all the displays, but he liked “Model C” the most because of the available dining seating.


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Post-selection Process

Once the firms are rated by the University, the overall successful bidder will be attached to the project, according to the Feb. 5 Wheel article.

Once the money for the project is identified, approval for designing the new project would move forward in stages, going through the University’s Ways and Means Committee, which includes senior leadership, who would then recommend it to the Finance Committee of the Board of Trustees, according to Early. After the design phase, where talks with suppliers and subcontractors would begin, the budget number would become more refined, and the project would move to the construction phase after the same approval process, according to a Feb. 5 Wheel article. 

Feasibility Report

During the past year, the feasibility study met with more than 200 people, including more than 100 students, to collect community feedback and suggestions, Perlman said in the Feb. 5 Wheel article. The study found that the current DUC has a number of mechanical and electrical inefficiencies, lacks accessibility for people with disabilities in some areas and is difficult to navigate.

The study also advises demolishing the west end of the DUC, built in the mid 1980s, in part because it is aesthetically incongruent, according to the feasibility study.

University Architect Jen Fabrick, who helps manage the project for Emory, said people respect the east DUC for its history and aesthetics, unlike the west side.

“As a result, it is determined that the best approach for the future DUC is to gut and renovate the ‘East DUC’ and demolish the 1982 addition to replace it with a more efficient, welcoming and architecturally attractive University Center,” the feasibility study states.

The study also recommended moving the center’s loading dock to a place more accessible for food services, keeping Theater Emory housed in the center and adding a multipurpose event space that could seat a class of students, or 1,600 people, according to the Feb. 5 Wheel article.

Additionally, the study emphasized Emory’s commitment to sustainability as a driving factor in the new center’s design. Fabrick said in the Feb. 5 article that Emory is asking architects to take ideas of sustainability “above and beyond.”

— By Brandon Fuhr, Assistant Digital Editor

Correction (3/31 at 1:50p.m.): In the graphic comparing the features of the different models, Model B states that a unique feature is the “Inhibitor.” The unique feature is actually an “Incubator.”