ROBERT W. PLASTER CENTER FOR STUDENT SUCCESS
Challenge and Approach:
Convert an existing 100,000sf mall from the 1980s into a collaborative hub driven by community support and partnerships where student health and educational needs are met. The existing circulation space segments the interior of the structure into three defined areas. To fit the proposed program, the design team “unpacked” the building and “re-packed” it through multiple scenarios to determine the most successful and strategic configuration for immediate impact and future growth.
The center combines the needs of early childhood health and learning as well as embedded career experiences for high school students. This center serves as a catalyst for innovation, combining the district’s learning experiences, local entrepreneurs and community health organizations under one roof. The building includes a health care clinic for women and children, a district preschool, high school student GOCAPS program, culinary arts program, event center, tech labs, and leasable business storefronts. Identity and wayfinding are critical for organizing the facility and directing the public. A simple but impactful decision was made to address the existing entrances with updated and modernized canopies and use exterior super-graphics to attract visual attention from the nearby interstate highway. By re-purposing the existing mall circulation into the Student and Entrepreneurial Commons, square footage was allocated for programming.
Since the structure consists of expansive interior spaces, large domed skylights were cut into the existing roof to flood the center core spaces and corridors with natural daylight. The existing mall openings were re-captured and framed to act as new “storefronts” for incubator businesses..