A soaring, two-story circular dining hall, part of the new Campus Center, has become the talk at New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT). Sheathed in gleaming, double-pane, energy-conserving glass, the building, opening Sept. 1, completes the university’s three-year, $83.5-million central campus makeover.
The snazzy new structure represents a growing trend among US universities to raise the campus center’s status. “As campuses have grown in diversity, so has the need for a place to ease and facilitate students’ social, recreational and personal lives,” said designer and architect Charles Gwathmey, Gwathmey Siegel and Associates Architects.
Two tall multi-story buildings, a sky bridge, 55-foot clock tower, European-style piazza and spacious outdoor rooftop terrace comprise the key elements of a complex surrounding the center.
In an effort to improve communication and socialization on the 45-acre urban campus, the architects scaled the complex to create the feel of an outdoor room and give more spatial definition to the campus. “To promote socializing, we wanted to encourage people to move through spaces, not around them,” said Thomas Levering, associate partner at the firm who oversees higher education.
The new round campus dining hall adds height and verve plus doubles the dining space. Its smoky gray glass provides a strong presence on the campus green. A 28,000 square-foot, rooftop grass terrace crowns it. Paths around it reroute traffic to the center.
A 55-foot rectangular clock tower stands adjacent to one entrance to the center. The donated tower features a carillon that will chime hourly. Nearby, a tall circular tower provides entry to the four-story center. A stainless-steel, cafeteria-style serving area for students dominates the center’s first floor. Student offices, lounges, pub and a new faculty/staff dining hall are upstairs.
The university’s first glass sky bridge connects the center’s third floor to its sister building, a six-story, block-long structure. Together the structures offer 375,000 square feet of new and rehabilitated space. The new meet-and-greet spot, a 12,000 square-foot expanse of pre-cast concrete pavers and plantings, called a piazza, connects them.
The construction represents a major portion of more than a $100 million facilities improvement plan. Completed are additional residence space and an additional building for the business incubator program. Upgrades in the works include two of NJIT’s oldest buildings, Cullimore and Eberhardt halls, located adjacent to the complex.
“A good-looking center tells a visual story,” said Levering. “A center with the right stuff says life outside the classroom is as important as life within it.”
NJIT is a public, scientific and technological research university enrolling more than 8,800 students. The university offers bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees to students in 80 degree programs throughout its six colleges: Newark College of Engineering, New Jersey School of Architecture, College of Science and Liberal Arts, School of Management, Albert Dorman Honors College and College of Computing Sciences. The division of continuing professional education offers adults eLearning, off campus degrees and short courses. Expertise and research initiatives include architecture and building science, applied mathematics, biomedical engineering, environmental engineering and science, information technology, manufacturing, materials, microelectronics, multimedia, telecommunications, transportation and solar physics. NJIT ranks among the top schools of U.S. News & World Report's list of national doctoral universities.