Wight & Company joined students, faculty and administrators at Lewis University to celebrate the grand opening and dedication of a new 25,500-square-foot student center. The Brother James Gaffney, FSC Student Center will be a campus hub for students at the university’s Romeoville campus in Chicago’s western suburbs. This multi-level structure features a 2.5-story glass atrium, dining hall, convenience store and café, offices for student government and campus organizations, gaming area and arcade, and several outdoor terraces.
The design of the new student center pays tribute to the university’s heritage in aviation and aeronautics. Lewis University has its own airport adjacent to its Romeoville campus and is recognized as having one of the country’s leading collegiate aviation programs. Evoking the spirit of a high-bay aircraft hangar, Wight’s design incorporates a structural system resembling the cable and strut construction of vintage airplanes. An acrobatic biplane is suspended above the dining room as a reminder of Lewis’s renowned aviation legacy.
“Our campus master plan has always called for a centerpiece building that could serve as a hub of campus activity and bring the entire Lewis community together,” said Raymond Kennelly, Lewis University’s senior vice president for enrollment management, marketing and planning. “The new student center has filled that void and is now a key feature of our campus footprint.” University officials have named the new building for recently retired president Brother James Gaffney, FSC, in honor of his 28 years of service to the university.
Wight was chosen to lead this project using its integrated design and delivery model. In addition to serving as design architect for the new student center, the firm served as construction manager. Wight also provided civil, structural and MEP engineering services. Executive vice president/director of design Kevin Havens led Wight’s architecture team, working closely with senior project manager Laura Batterberry and lead project architect Ed Faron. Jim Nagle, senior vice president of construction, along with Rob Guth, construction superintendent, and Jake Wielenbnicki, construction engineer, led the integrated delivery team in the field.
“The Gaffney Center will be an important anchor for campus life,” said Havens. “It was created to meet the unique needs of both residential and commuter students. At the same time, it’s a gathering space that is designed to begin to meld those two distinct cultures into one.”
Wight is targeting LEED Gold certification for the new structure. Construction on the $12 million project began in April 2017 and was completed on schedule earlier this month. Steadily increasing enrollment at Lewis University has driven a significant amount of new building and renovation on the main campus, much of which has been designed and built by Wight. Since 2004, the two organizations have partnered on more than 50 individual expansion and improvement projects. In the 1930s, Lewis University’s student population was approximately 300. Today, its student population totals nearly 6,500.