Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) held the official opening and dedication ceremony for its Cohon University Center addition this past Monday. The addition is a unique multi-use facility – part student union, part campus recreation center and part academic hub – that will help CMU meet growing demand for physical fitness, recreation and education while enhancing campus life for students, faculty and staff. The facility also creates a new front door for the university and strengthens circulation and connectivity across campus. The building’s interior is carefully organized to create visual connections between public circulation and program spaces that promote transparency and open dialogue between students and faculty.

CannonDesign’s Phil Dordai and John Reed were in attendance to commemorate the building dedication and listen to speakers highlight the myriad positive impacts this building will have on campus culture, student well-being and more. The 62,000 sf addition includes exercise studios, a cycling studio, locker rooms, a pool and new spectator balcony. A new theater located just off the lobby serves a wide range of student groups, and a wide variety of performances in a studio theater environment.

The existing buildings were designed by Michael Dennis and Henry Hornbostel who worked to reflect and reinterpret the then-current Beaux Arts style and industrial nature of Pittsburgh. The university center addition complements this architectural language while offering a more contemporary and open design. The building is organized as a series of discrete volumes set behind a fairly continuous yellow brick façade. The addition is a bit like F. Scott Fitzgerald’s short story, “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” and can be viewed as a parable of reverse architectural aging. This transformation can be seen moving clockwise around the building. The addition respects its heritage and points the way to future campus expansion.

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