Sykes Student Union

Sykes Student Union in West Chester, Pennsylvania by KieranTimberlake Associates

The following text and images are by KieranTimberlake Associates of Philadelphia for the Earl F. Sykes Student Union on the campus of West Chester University in Pennsylvania.

West Chester University is part of the state system of universities. The core campus is a coherent set of historical, stone schist structures, generally constructed from 1890 through the 1930's. A central challenge for the addition was to provide a 'front door' and connection back to the main campus which is separated by a main thoroughfare from the existing 1970's Student Union. The addition and intervention placed between the existing building and the street reconciled the existing structure's recessive and disorienting position relative to the core campus.

The sculptural addition serves and extends the campus landscape. The whole site was reorganized to embed 300 cars and the new and existing buildings as figure in a dense landscape field. The new monumental schist wall marks the multi-purpose facility and acts as a reminder of the collegiate gothic academic buildings to the northeast with a strong street presence. The warm architectural concrete frame of the addition is exposed, providing a rhythmic regulation of the schist rubble stone front wall, lead-coated copper trims and sidings, teak wood windows, stainless steel railings and slate shingle wall panels.

The addition and reconfigured interior clarify the confusing existing entry and corridors with a centralized internal circulation pattern. A monumental stair and atrium between the existing and new buildings and parallel to the street orient occupants and visually connects the more active lower three floors. Access to the quieter penthouse study lounges and computer room is provided by a smaller figural stair. These spaces share a glass corridor wall that affords views to the monumental stair below.

The new space welcomes visitors with natural light. The interior connects to the campus through terrace extensions and broad, open window areas. The exposed concrete joins a palette of interior materials which include mahogany and maple wall paneling, plaster walls and soffits, custom metal and glass luminous walls and terrazzo flooring.