Architects: MSR Design
- Area: 18700 m²
- Year: 2009
Photographs:Lara Swimmer Photography
Text description provided by the architects. Located on Minnesota’s western prairie, the University of Minnesota, Morris, is a national leader in campus sustainability—through sustainable development and the addition of its own wind power generator and biomass energy plant. This renovation of a two-story, 18,700 square-foot 1915 historic building serves two purposes: to act as a gateway for all visitors (including prospective students, parents, and alumni) and be a centerpiece for the campus’ commitment to sustainable design.
Started as a boarding school for Native American youth, the school eventually transitioned into the West Central School of Agriculture with courses in agriculture, industry, and home economics. Now the University of Minnesota, Morris, the school is a liberal arts college that still includes courses related to its educational roots along with new curriculum focusing on a renewable, sustainable education.
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Welcome Center was built in 1915 when it was known as the Engineering building. It now houses the offices of Admissions, Sustainability, External Relations, Community Engagement, and the Center for Small Towns.
For the first time in its history, there is a clear entry to the Morris campus. At the edge of the historic center of campus, the Welcome Center is easily accessible, prominent, and located adjacent to parking. Because of the wide range of visitors to campus the building needed to impress 18 to 80-year-olds. Visitors are welcomed by a carefully restored exterior with classic proportions, a clear entry, and signage denoting the Historic District and a new historic walking tour.
While the exterior transformation is more subtle (following the Secretary of the Interior’s historic guidelines), the formerly dark, dingy interior has been dramatically recast – with bright daylit open spaces, warm colors reminiscent of the surrounding prairie, and modern furnishings. Updated space layouts provide open sightlines and clear pathways, focal reception points, and educational media with real-time updates on campus events, news, and sustainability information.
Anticipating LEED Gold certification, the building incorporates the first application of chilled beams in the state and is the first building listed on the National Register of Historic Places to use chilled beam technology throughout the entire building. 3,000 square feet of mechanical space is eliminated, freeing space for open circulation, additional program area, and daylighting. This creative approach to sustainable design keeps the integrity of the historic building intact and reduces energy consumption.