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Cornell University - Robert Purcell Community Center

Community Center Renovation


QPK Design provided planning and design services for the phased renovation of a 3-story, 90,000 SF, c.1969 Brutalism-style campus building to create a new community center on the lower floors and marketplace eatery on the top floor.  Work included renovating the lower two floors, modifying third floor food service operations; and addressing building wide impacts for life safety, access, utility infrastructure, cost and implementation. 


The lower two levels were reorganized and recreated to include a new cafe and auditorium, a mail center, student services center, billiards and game room, convenience store, computer laboratory, lounges, offices, conference and multi-purpose rooms.  An opportunity for gathering was developed by opening up the center of the building into large concourse areas.  Literally and figuratively, the building center became a rotunda from which all activities emanate.  Centered in the rotunda is a 2-story metal-sculptured interactive multi-media tower, an iconic hinge-pin philosophically representing “community interaction through information sharing”.  Large-screen monitors, projectors and touch-screen computers are housed within and “wired” by fiber-optic cables.  A row of custom-designed illuminated columns punch through the two floors guiding visitors to the center from the main entry.  Across from the new café is a 2-story volume with an astrologically correct fiber-optic star field.  Three consecutive slab openings were made, and custom railing and monumental glass stair were designed to achieve connectively.


Ceiling and flooring details and finishes spiral from the center through all areas of the facility reinforcing orientation, organization, and continuity of the design concept.  Critical to the success of the design was the very predominant floor pattern.  Carpet was chosen to be the floor finish due to ease of maintenance, and its acoustical and comfort properties.  


The third floor dining center was transformed from a “stream line cafeteria” type service to a “move-n-pick” marche type eatery that serves over 4000 customers each day and 2000 at dinner. The themed design provided flexible differentiated dining, featuring seven scattered serving stations with display cooking allowing individual selection. The diverse menu offered (along with self-served, custom order and all-you-can-eat systems) required integrated planning of specialized equipment in the main kitchen and open cooking. 


Attributes of the project provided flexible differentiated dining featuring seven scattered serving stations with display cooking allowing individual selection. The diverse menu plan required integration of specialized equipment in main kitchen and front of house cooking stations. Self-serve, custom order, and all-you-can-eat options were program drivers.  Preparation areas were required for expanded campus catering services, and a dining area for 600+ seating capacity.