JobSight: Lawrence University, Appleton, Wis.

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APPLETON, Wis. – At Lawrence University, a campus tradition – using local stone for its halls of learning – ended up as a plus to meet 21st-century concerns.

Building a new student center for the private liberal-arts institution already offered plenty of challenges, from the timeframe involved in getting to the formal groundbreaking to finding a design that would fit the steeply elevated site along the Fox River.

200_Michael Leschisin_F2Y7281Click photo to enlargeSchool officials added one more hurdle; they were adamant the project receive at least a LEED® (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Silver Certification, making materials choices critical.

Enter natural stone as a sustainable solution, by incorporating a Wisconsin limestone into the exterior – and selected areas of the interior – of the building.

The result: not only has the Richard and Margot Warch Campus Center earned a number of awards for its design and sustainability – including a LEED Gold Certification – but the finished project is as stunning as its riverfront setting.


While the new campus center opened for students only two years ago, Lynn Hagee, project manager for the university, says it isn’t an exaggeration to say it was almost 20 years in the making.

“The problem from the first was the footprint,” she says. “When we initially started, it was just going to gobble up so much ground; because we wanted our food service and our post office in there, we had to make arrangements for deliveries from 18-wheelers.”

When the student body grew and dormitory space became an issue, the campus center was put on the backburner. Later, when interest picked up on the project, a lack of funds caused the pace to crawl.

Then, the university happened to hire two separate architectural and design firms that helped resolve key issues.

The first was Watertown, Mass.-based Sasaki Associates, which created a master plan for the campus.

“For a number of years, we had turned on backs on the river because there was industry across from the campus,” says Hagee. “Then, we hired Sasaki –a terrific master-planning firm – and one of the questions they asked us was, ‘Why are you turning your backs on the river?’ They told us, ‘You need to take advantage of the river.’”

When the campus-center concept progressed enough to hire an architect for the project, the school first turned to Milwaukee-based Uihlein/Wilson Architects Inc. (David Uihlein, one of the principals, is a Lawrence alum.)

“Because of the size of the project, they told us they would like to partner with somebody,” Hagee explains. “They arranged for several groups of architects to come in and make presentations to us, and we choose KSS Architects LLP of Princeton, N.J.”

She adds that KSS then worked on the conceptual issues for the project, leaving Uihlein/Wilson to work on the details and serve as architect-of-record for the building.