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Striking glass atrium updates historic student union at Duke University

Grimshaw gives the West Campus Union a sparkling addition

A multi-level glass cube with internal balconies and a terrace sits between gothic-style buildings.
A steel-and-glass atrium seamlessly integrates into the historic student union.
© James Ewing courtesy of Grimshaw

The New York office of global architecture practice Grimshaw has completed a renovation and expansion of a nearly-hundred-year-old student union center at Duke University with a glass cube that acts as a focal point on the historic Durham campus.

A windowed atrium takes the place of the original structure, which was designed in the early 1930s by Horace Trumbauer as part of a masterplan by Frederick Law Olmstead. The union featured a facade constructed from locally quarried Duke Stone with ornate window tracery, gargoyles, and other decorative elements made from Indiana limestone that now frame the new hall.

Hosting a variety of activities, clubs, and organizations at Duke, the West Campus Union comprises conference rooms, small group meeting areas, multi-purpose spaces, and 12 dining venues that create an open “market place” experience.

Steel-and-glass balconies perch in gothic wood trusses, while glass bridges connect spaces, and wooden louvers add texture to the otherwise bright and airy space. There is plenty of outdoor seating, both on the top-floor balcony, and underneath a plaza bridge. Have a look.