Sketching a Social Space

March 31, 2004

Imagine a place where you could mingle with colleagues and friends, grab coffee, and listen to music. A place to kick back. That's what Vice President for Student Affairs Larry Moneta envisions will replace the Bryan Center Walkway, which he calls more of a "conveyor belt" than a destination.

He has made some drawings of his vision. The conceptual illustrations of the West Campus Student Center complex, developed after months of community feedback and a survey of 3,000 students, are not final. But they show how the walkway could be converted into a plaza that would connect the Bryan Center, West Union, Page, and Flowers more effectively.

The new plaza would be the hub of a "campus neighborhood" that features plenty of room for student-organization offices, meeting space, campus-life and advising services, eateries, and shops, as well as comfortable places to relax, study, and meet friends. The long-term plan includes more welcoming entryways to the buildings, more dining options, and possibly new locations for the Duke Textbook Store, the Gothic Bookshop, and the University Store in a new building at the other end of the plaza, closer to the West Union.

Moneta released the drawings to inspire continued discussion about the project. He has met with various student groups and campus leaders and plans to hold forums throughout the winter and spring.

At December's meeting, the trustees' building and grounds committee approved the site, scope, and selection of an architect for the project, which will be called the West Campus Student Center Plaza and Commons. The student affairs committee endorsed the project in order to be on record as supporting the proposed plaza and long-range plans to revitalize the West Union Building and the Bryan Center. West Union's renovations include bathrooms, stairs, and elevators on each floor. Renovations to the Bryan Center, and eventually Page Auditorium and Flowers Building, are a few years down the road.

Glenn Allen, a landscape architect with Hargreaves Associates, has been hired, and, in February, he presented drawings to the Plaza Steering Committee, made up of students and administrators. Final approval by trustees is scheduled for May. If the trustees approve, construction will begin this summer and may last about a year.

Last summer, Moneta hired Treat Harvey, the student affairs division's first director of development, to begin raising funds for the project.