Duda|Paine Architects

Duke University Student Wellness Center

Duda|Paine Architects
23. October 2017
Photo: Robert Benson Photography

Duke University is in the midst of a building boom, with a dozen buildings and renovations completed in the last two years and about ten more underway. One of the recently completed projects is the Student Wellness Center, which includes departmental spaces such as offices, therapy rooms, exam rooms, nutrition and student health, and shared spaces such as lobbies, meeting rooms and an indoor/outdoor garden. A three-story Entry Pavilion anchors the design by Duda|Paine Architects, who answered a few questions about the project.

Project: Duke University Student Wellness Center, 2017
Location: Durham, North Carolina, USA
Client: Duke University
Architect: Duda|Paine Architects, Durham, NC
Principal-in-Charge: Jeffrey Paine, AIA, Principal-In-Charge
Design Principal: Turan Duda, FAIA
Project Architect: Scott Baltimore, AIA
Project Manager: Dane Thompson, AIA
Project Team: Brian Payne, AIA, Lindsey Trogdon, AIA; Allison Lowe (Interior Design)
Civil/Structural Engineer: Stewart, Inc.
MEP/FP Engineer: Newcomb & Boyd
Landscape Architect: Stewart, Inc.
Lighting Designer: Cline Bettridge Bernstein Lighting Design
Interior Designer: Duda|Paine Architects
Contractor: d. a. Everett Construction Group & Gilbane Building Company
Construction Manager: Donovan Everett; Daniel Ahles
Environmental Engineer: Duke Facilities Management
Health Programming Consultant: MHTN
Arborist: Leaf & Limb
Site Area: 4 acres
Building Area: 71,900

Photo: Robert Benson Photography

Please provide an overview of the project.
Duke University’s innovative new Student Wellness Center — "The Well" — is designed to meet the highest standards of clinical care while expanding the role of wellness in students' lives. Strategically situated within Duke’s Campus Center, between athletics, student services and the university’s historic grounds, the facility consolidates all student health and wellness departments into one location. In addition to Student Health, Counseling and Psychological Services, the building includes a pharmacy, dental office, physical therapy, and multipurpose spaces. This diverse array of programs allows the entire campus community to meet, find balance, and focus on wellness.
The design’s open, three-story Entry Pavilion lobby infuses the building with natural light. A monumental entry stair follows a translucent wall up through the space to emphasize the intersection of prevention, intervention and social interaction. To integrate an authentic sense of nature and minimize the project’s environmental impact, oak harvested from the site and locally milled was used extensively for interior surfaces and seating. A contemplative garden reinforces connections between the environment and personal wellness. These abundant and unique features make the Duke Student Wellness Center the embodiment of the University's commitment to integrating wellness into daily life.

Photo: Robert Benson Photography

What are the main ideas and inspirations influencing the design of the building?
The project’s vision is transformational — change the perception of what health care is for students. Student life and student health are interwoven both in the layered arrangement of building functions and in the design’s integration of interior and exterior environments.

The first point of contact for users is the three-story Entry Pavilion, which serves as an orienting element, an opportunity for informal learning and the social heart of the building. The Pavilion also serves as an "umbrella" that brings together clinical, health and wellness resources for students under one roof for the first time on campus. It is also a gathering space — open at all levels and connected by the monumental stair and transparent wall — designed to enhance and support building functions much like the unprogrammed social spaces in a student center.

Careful detailing of the connections between the lobby's forest of laminated wood columns and the layering of space creates a sense of lightness and a play of shadows. The use of wood throughout provides the open volume of space with a warm, natural feeling that is also clean and contemporary. The design presents an enriching environment that invites students in and reflects the importance of wellness and health at the university.

Photo: Robert Benson Photography

How does the design respond to the unique qualities of the site?
The Entry Pavilion overlooks a contemplative garden on lower level and Duke’s established forest beyond, bringing a sense of nature to the interior. The extensive use of wood in the structure and of site-harvested, locally milled and locally constructed interior wood finishes and furnishings, all visible from exterior walkways, invite students in to study, socialize, attend events or classes or simply relax. Duke University’s dean wanted a space that welcomed students and encouraged their engagement with the program offerings as well as with the building itself.

Photo: Robert Benson Photography

How did the project change between the initial design stage and the completion of the building?
Between Design Development and Construction Documents phases, a preconstruction "Site Impact Study" reduced the amount of surrounding forest impacted by the project. Also during CDs, a $6 million donation to the project allowed for the inclusion of the contemplative garden, which enhanced the project's focus on wellness and wellbeing. With a construction phase redesign of the lobby's wood wall, site timbers became available for use as veneers for millwork and desks​, adding warmth to interior spaces.

Photo: Robert Benson Photography

Was the project influenced by any trends in energy-conservation, construction, or design?
The new facility will meet Duke University’s sustainable design goal of LEED Silver certification, yet faced challenges because the building had to tie into existing campus systems, which limited strategies available for energy-conservation. Instead, the building’s design, form and construction focused on energy-conservation through the extensive use of natural daylighting, deep south facing overhangs, exterior solar shading elements, integrated ceramic frit in windows, continuous insulation and high R-value wall assemblies as well as other features.

Photo: Robert Benson Photography

What products or materials have contributed to the success of the completed building?
While the primary building structure is comprised of steel frame and concrete floors, the Entry Pavilion brings materials from the outdoors in including a slate and loose fill river rock floor congruous with exterior courtyard flooring and rough texture bark wood. It is further highlighted by structural glulam timbers and vertical wood louvers and fritted glass for solar shading and obscurity to the spaces beyond. A wood roof deck/ceiling is visible above and highlighted by wide acoustic ceiling ‘clouds’ that float between the beams and hold lighting and the sprinkler systems. The exterior façade of the body of the building is articulated in three tower elements made of curtainwall glass and a terra cotta rain screen system in two gray colors that contextually relate to the palette of historical stone on campus.
Email interview conducted by John Hill.

Site Plan (Drawing: Duda|Paine Architects)
Elevation (Drawing: Duda|Paine Architects)

Related articles

Other articles in this category