Student Union - Northern Kentucky University
Highland Heights, Kentucky

NKU envisioned the Student Union as a “hub” for the entire campus, creating a crossroads for student, faculty, and staff activities. Owner terms such as “beacon” and ‘”landmark” implied a desire to raise the standard and set a new direction for architectural excellence on campus. In response, the design idea used circulation as a major programmatic element. A tiered three-story atrium ties each floor together, giving occupants an opportunity to engage the building’s many activities in a variety of ways, from direct participation to observation from the balcony and lounge spaces arranged throughout the atrium. The north facing and fritted clear low-e insulated glazing design promotes natural day lighting strategies while reducing heat-gain. The atrium runs along the entire north face of the new building parallel to the main pedestrian path and terminates at a main building entrance. A butt-glazed and zinc tower serves as the beacon, with an LED lighting system that can be programmed to feature colors associated with holidays and academic events.

The second floor is the main food service level, and is located directly off the main central plaza. Presentation cooking at seven food platforms, each offering a menu unique to the food preparation method featured at the platform, are arranged along the south edge of the atrium. Additional casual seating is placed in a variety of locations, from outside patios on the north and south side of the building, to cyber cafes in the atrium. Additional food venues have been strategically placed throughout the building to establish activity zones along the atrium path.
The third floor is the main office level, housing the Dean of Students suite, Student Life, a Student Involvement Center, Student Government, African American Student Affairs and Ethnic Services, and International Student Affairs. The offices are arranged in glass-walled suites off the atrium, sharing an informal sky-lighted center support area that encourages student involvement and interaction.

2013 Top 10 Most Influential Buildings in Kentucky
AIA Kentucky/KET 50/50 Competition

2009 Merit Design Award of Excellence
AIA Kentucky

2009 Starnet Worldwide Design Award
Education Field Winner
”When we came together to conceptualize this project, we articulated a vision for a building that was quite different from the norm. Omni is to be congratulated for their role in translating that vision into a stunning physical reality.”

Mary Paula Schuh, Director of Campus Planning, Northern Kentucky University