The renovated Bryan Center Plaza, on track for an Aug. 2013 completion, will link student social hubs with academic buildings on Towerview Road and Science Drive.
The extension, currently shrouded in a grey protective barrier, is part of the larger construction project involving the renovation of the West Union Building, which will cause West Union and Bryan Center shops and restaurants to shuffle locations. The extended plaza will function as the main gateway leading into the Events Pavilion—which will host eateries during renovations and later become an events space—and also become the main connection between West Campus and the buildings on Towerview Road.
Instead of going down stairs leading to Union Drive in order to access Towerview from the West Union Building area, the new Plaza—a continuous, leveled platform—will access the athletics facilities, the Sanford School of Public Policy, Rubenstein Hall, Gross Chemistry Building, Fuqua School of Business and Duke School of Law.
“Public policy is one of the top majors at Duke,” said Steve Nowicki, dean and vice provost of undergraduate education. “And there has always been this lack of connectivity up to Towerview.”
In addition to improving accessibility to different parts of the campus, the new 15-foot wide walkway will also promote a higher sense of community for students through the smaller, more private seating areas, Roby added.
“The gathering spaces may be a little bit more intimate than what exists on the plaza that we now have, and you’ll be able to find a little more solitude,” he said.
But the new plaza will be slightly narrower than the existing one and therefore will require negotiations with student organizations to determine how to make full use of the limited space. Director of Dining Services Robert Coffey noted that there might be less space for additional food carts and that the decision of which food vendors will return will take place once the construction is complete.
The anticipated Events Pavilion will be another space dedicated to student life—in addition to the Bryan Center, West Union, Page Auditorium and the plaza. One of the goals of the West Campus Precinct Planning Project is to holistically make all these spaces feel connected in some way, said Chris Roby, director of the University Center Activities and Events.
“We want to take the already-existing footprint and make it make more sense,” Roby said. “The bridge is sort of the tissue that connects all those spaces together to make everything work.”
To further the sense of interconnectivity between the old plaza and the new extension, the Gothic Bookshop, currently under renovation, will move from the inside of the Bryan Center to a new location, which will have two glass entrances facing the plaza, beside Joe Van Gogh cafe.
“One of the flaws of the Bryan Center is that it has just kind of been this weird stone structure,” Nowicki said. “Opening up the bookstore at the sides animates the Plaza and invites people in by connecting the inside to the outside, and at the end of the day, [all the structures] will be an integrated whole.”
Joe Van Gogh will operate within the same space after being closed from March 1 through June. But the coffee shop may have an improved heating, ventilation and air conditioning system, said Dave Jernigan, Joe Van Gogh’s director of sales and marketing.
“We are really hoping to see more business after the renovation,” Jernigan said. “We all want a better campus experience for students.”
The administration has made an effort to minimize inconvenience to the Duke community during the ongoing construction thus far, said Vice President for Student Affairs Larry Moneta. Students should, however, expect more visible impacts in the near future.
“I am pretty pleased that we have been able to do everything [without causing major inconveniences to the student body], but it’s going to get a little messier because the next phase of renovation is going to move up to the upper level of [the] Bryan Center,” Moneta said
The plaza extension is currently on schedule and will be completed by Aug. 2013, but some minor landscaping will take place over summer, Roby said.