SUNY Campus Gets a Glassy Expansion

Glass was a defining element of the award-winning student union building expansion at the State University of New York- New Paltz. Designed by Ikon.5 Architects based in Princeton, N.J., the project received a Merit Award in the non-residential built category by the New Jersey chapter of the American Institute of Architects. The new Campus Commons building is a three-level, 12,000-square-foot expansion of the 1970 student union, which architects created to be a “crystalline palisade” set between the concrete buildings at the campus entrance.

According to the architects, the expressive form of the addition is influenced by the strong regional landscape of the Hudson River Valley where it is sited. The forms are drawn from the vistas of the Shawangunk ridge and create an exterior sculptural expression of the landscape and a dramatic interior commons.

To structure the “crystalline palisade,” a stress skin wall and roof system of exposed steel tubes create a column-free net on which the glazing units are placed; this skin is visible through the glass from the outside. Ceramic fritted glass was installed over the structural stress skin and the frit pattern, according to architects, is abstracted from tectonic configurations of the stone ledges of the Shawangunk ridge. The transparent glass enclosure also permits one to see in and to see out, which was an important detail for the student union.

“The glass allowed us to achieve a high level of transparency so that the students could see and be seen in the Commons,” says Joseph G. Tattoni, principal of ikon.5 architects. “It also gave us a venue for creating an abstract pattern on the glass that represented the geologic plate conditions of the regional mountains.”

Ben Petrick with Ikon.5 worked on the project and says the glass for the Commons’ skylight system was fabricated by Viracon and supplied directly through Supersky, the skylight system fabricator and installer. For vertical surfaces the project features 1¼-inch VNE2-63 insulating glass unit with ceramic frit and low-E coating on the #2 surface. Horizontal surfaces (roofs) were constructed with 1¼-inch VRE2-30 insulating and laminated glass units with low-E coating on the #2 surface.

The expansion project was also designed as a high-performance building and features several green design elements. These include the glass enclosure to harvest daylight and reduce solar gain and as well as reducing lighting requirements by optic controls.