WMU’s New Student Center: Designing Inclusivity

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Western Michigan University (WMU) in Kalamazoo, United States, is embracing a new era of campus life with the introduction of its latest architectural marvel: the Student Center, meticulously crafted by CannonDesign. Situated on ancestral lands of the Ojibwe, Odawa, and Bodewadmi nations, this innovative structure stands as a testament to inclusivity, celebrating the rich tapestry of Native American heritage deeply woven into its foundation.

Fostering Connection and Collaboration

Replacing the former Bernhard Center, this dynamic three-level space redefines the student experience, fostering connection, community, and collaboration. Designed as a vibrant hub, it offers a myriad of amenities including gathering areas, dining options, a campus bookstore, and even an on-campus brewpub, creating a multifaceted environment where students can thrive.

Inclusive Design: A Reflection of Values

At the core of the Student Center’s design philosophy lies a commitment to inclusivity. Every aspect of the building, from its layout to its architectural elements, is carefully crafted to promote a sense of belonging. Drawing inspiration from Native American culture, the building features curved walls and circular rooms, a departure from traditional architectural norms, symbolizing unity and community.

Nature as a Source of Inspiration

Nature serves as a guiding force in the design, with each level paying homage to the local environment. The ground floor, clad in stone reminiscent of Coldwater Shale, seamlessly merges with the landscape. The middle level, enveloped in glass and exposed columns, evokes the tranquility of a Michigan forest. Meanwhile, the upper level boasts gold fins that not only provide sun protection but also cast intricate shadows reminiscent of a tree canopy, blurring the lines between indoors and outdoors.

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The Heart of Community

At the center of it all lies the iconic atrium, affectionately known as the “Heart.” Bathed in natural light and adorned with wood accents, this space serves as a gathering point for affinity groups, offering a sanctuary for reflection, performance, and connection. It embodies the spirit of Michigan’s forests, inviting students to explore and celebrate the diversity of their community.

Empowering Student Voices

More than just a physical structure, the Student Center symbolizes WMU’s dedication to empowering its students. By providing a space where all voices are heard and valued, it encourages students to embrace their individuality while fostering a deep sense of community. It’s a place where students not only learn and grow but also forge lifelong connections that extend far beyond its walls.

In conclusion, the Western Michigan University Student Center stands as a beacon of inclusion, embodying the university’s commitment to creating a campus environment where every student feels seen, heard, and valued. Through its thoughtful design and unwavering dedication to fostering community, it paves the way for a brighter, more inclusive future for all.

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