WWU Multicultural Center

ClientWestern Washington University
LocationBellingham, WA
Awards Merit Award, AIA Oregon, 2021; Citation Award, AIA Northwest & Pacific, 2021; Facility Design Award of Excellence, ACUI, 2020
HighlightsDEI, JEDI, Certified Silver LEED v4 Commercial Interiors, Multicultural Center, Student Union, Higher Education, Multipurpose Dance Studio, Cultural Event Space, Bookstore, Ethnic Student Center, AS Student Advocacy, Identity Resource Center, Coast Salish Land, GCCM, Construction on An Occupied Site

Located at the heart of the Western Washington University (WWU) campus, the Multicultural Center was advocated for and funded by students to allow for the expansion of the Ethnic Student Center (ESC), Student Advocacy and Identity Resource Centers (SAIRC), and Multicultural Student Services. WWU desired a project that would create a supportive environment for its Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (JEDI) goals and provide a home for student ethnic groups and marginalized communities.

Designed by Opsis Architecture with RMC as the Associate Architect, the project includes social and study spaces, a multipurpose dance studio and cultural event space with kitchen, computer workspace, and program staff offices. The renovation consolidated the new Multicultural Center within the existing Viking Union, Bookstore, and KUGS 89.3 FM radio station under one roof. The expansion enclosed a former courtyard to create a new primary entry and central lobby for the Viking Union complex. Locating the Multicultural Center above the bookstore connects the student areas to the natural environment with sweeping views of Bellingham Bay and the Old Main Quadrangle.

To respect its presence on Coastal Salish land, the Multicultural Center’s façade is designed with layers and textures that represent the weaving of Salish Tribe traditions with the ethnically and culturally diverse student groups on campus. Other integral design features include the natural environment and maritime climate of Bellingham, prioritizing indoor air quality, natural ventilation, optimal daylighting, operational efficiency, and biophilic design principles. WWU students were directly involved in the selection of materials, finishes, and graphics to personalize the interiors to reflect their values and make them feel welcome.

As the Associate Architect, RMC designed the renovation portions of the project and led the permitting and construction administration services via a GCCM delivery process. We performed weekly site meetings and facilitated monthly OAC (Oversight and Collaboration) meetings involving key stakeholders over a 19-month construction period. Viking Union remained fully occupied during construction. As the site was the heart of the campus, safety and access for all students and visitors to the complex required delicate staging.

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