Many institutions are navigating the way forward for important buildings that were designed and constructed during the mid-century campus boom. Renovations don’t just provide opportunities to update the physical and the visible — they are also great opportunities to correct operational issues that have come up in the intervening years and reimagine the role a building can play on campus. The renovation of Fribley Commons transforms a 1960s-era traditional dining hall into a new vibrant, modern center for student life.
A New Front Door
One of two major student dining halls at Case Western Reserve University, the building was originally constructed in 1964 as the main dining facility for the South Residential Village. Ayers Saint Gross’s task with Fribley Commons was to exemplify the latest design and programming best practices to meet student expectations for a dining experience, developing a campus hub with a new distinct design for the University and surrounding community. The renovation reconfigures, reorients, and clarifies the entire entry sequence of the building.
Achieving this outcome was a multi-step process. On the building’s north side, a window-less mechanical headhouse was the primary face toward the campus, and a loading dock was the primary face toward the public street. To present a new, welcoming façade to the campus core, as well as a more attractive building facing the adjacent neighborhood, the mechanical headhouse was demolished and the loading dock was relocated to the rear of the building.
These changes allow the building to better interact with both the campus core and the surrounding neighborhood. They also signify an improvement for equity and accessibility. Formerly, the ADA entrance was located in the back of the building, meaning that any person in a wheelchair would need to take a circuitous path to enter. The reconfiguration of the entry sequence corrects this by adding a new open and unified space for use by all patrons.