UNF’s “Living Room”

Natalie Logan

A student moves down the hallway of her campus’ Student Union. As she walks, the long, straight walls seem to narrow until they come to a point where a set of double doors are closed at the end of the hall.

Across the country, another student walks down the hallway of UNF’s Student Union. She is flanked on either side by open windows and doorways. As the walls of the building curve to her right, she follows them easily to her destination.

“You’re not moving into anonymity,” Student Union Director David Crabtree said of the curved hallways. “You’re being drawn to a destination.”

Club Alliance Hallway

Built in 2009, UNF’s Student Union was conceived to serve as a hang out space where students could participate in co-curricular and extracurricular activities, according to Crabtree. He helped design the building and has been involved with its management since the beginning.

Since its construction, the Student Union has won multiple awards for architecture, amenities, sustainability and service.

In 2012, UNF’s Student Union won 4th place by popular vote in American Institute of Architecture’s “Florida Architecture: 100 Years, 100 Places” list, 1st place by architect vote, and best in the Educational category, according to AIA’s website.

“We knew we wanted a signature building,” Crabtree said. In addition to the curved hallways, some of his favorite design aspects are the floating staircases in the Plaza and Bookstore, the screen on the face of the building, and the deck in the Boathouse.

He also said splitting the two buildings to create the Osprey Plaza let the designer economize on a lot of usable space.

The most recent award is the Student Union’s recognition on Best College Reviews’ “The 25 Most Amazing Campus Student Unions.” Best College Reviews ranked the Student Union 24th for architecture and the amenities like Outtakes, the Game Room, the auditorium, and the Bookstore.

In addition to the offices in the building, the Student Union is used for on-campus organizations’ events like the International Center for Peace’s Native American Festival, Sorority and Fraternity meetings and recruiting, club meetings, game tournaments in the Game Room, Campus Life’s Ozzie’s Oktoberfest, and Osprey Production’s Movie Nights, concerts, Market Days, and Battle of the Bands.

Boathouse Deck

The Student Union is also host to off-campus organizations’ events like the American Institute of Architecture’s annual banquet and The Toral Family Foundation’s conference on Traumatic Brain Injuries where CNN correspondent and Emory University Professor Dr. Sanjay Gupta spoke.

On Oct. 11, Jacksonville’s Financial News and Daily Record reported that Urban Land Institute’s North Florida District Council gave the Student Union 2013’s Award for Excellence in the Public Sector category. The Record said ULI promotes responsible land use and sustainability.

The building is Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design Gold certified, meaning that everything from the power usage and water consumption to the furniture is environmentally sustainable. LEED sets environmental criteria for new construction where the highest certification possible is platinum. Crabtree said everything that went into the building is LEED certified.

The Student Union also won the Presidential Award for Excellence of Service for 2010-2011 and 2011-2012, Crabtree said.

Hallway to the Boathouse

He said the award must be due in part to the Student Union staff and their commitment to doing everything in their power to have the space the way users want it. “If it’s not right, we make it right immediately” Crabtree said.

According to Crabtree, planning is ongoing to improve student experience in the Student Union by installing more incidental lounges for students to hang out in and maybe improving the food court.

Crabtree said the awards are meaningful, but what is really meaningful is how this great resource is used. He said, “If we’ve got the space, we do it here.”

E-mail Natalie Logan at [email protected]