Cincinnati Student Center by Moore Ruble Yudell
by Ron Kull
As architects, we generally consider how a building meets the ground — in essence, we design a base that holds the building in place. But we seldom have to design this base while traversing a change in grade some 50 feet (15 meters) along nearly 500 feet (150 meters) of a building's length.
Yet one building on the campus of the University of Cincinnati creatively demonstrates that a building's base can be much more than just a meeting between building and ground.
The Joseph A. Steger Student Life Center by Moore Ruble Yudell makes a beautiful and varied connection to grade as it extends down Main Street, the winding thoroughfare that is the center of campus.
Sometimes the connection to the ground is simple — for example, red brick meeting concrete pavers — and sometimes it is complex, as when a row of columns lifts the facade of the building and creates an arcade for pedestrians.
The Steger Center's south face rambles along Main Street, which bisects the campus from top to bottom. At its back, on the north side, is a classic quadrangle formed by Swift, Baldwin, and Rhodes Halls.
The southern facade, in particular, has a dynamic character that contributes greatly to the quintessentially urban nature of the University of Cincinnati campus.
At one end, stadium-style seating carved from Carnelian granite provides numerous places for students to sit and converse with friends, watch passersby, or simply enjoy the warmth of the midday sun. The seats also provide a viewing platform for events and programs taking place on Bearcat Plaza, the center of campus.
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