- Project Name
- Karsh Alumni and Visitors Center
- Centerbrook Architects and Planners
- Duke University
- Project Types
- Project Scope
- 48,000 sq. feet
- Year Completed
- Shared by
Mark Simon, FAIA, Principal, Designer
Alan Paradis, RA, LEED AP, Project Manager
Civil Engineer: HDR,Construction Manager: LeChase,Consulting Engineer: Dewberry,Landscape Architect: Stimson,Structural Engineer: LHC,Other: Philip R. Sherman
- Project Status
The Karsh Alumni and Visitors Center is adjacent to Duke’s main entry to its Gothic Revival West Campus and the undergraduate and graduate admissions centers. It welcomes visitors, new and old, to Duke, a short walk away.
The center includes an events pavilion with large lobby, a meeting pavilion, the Forlines House, with meeting rooms and offices, and an Alumni Association office building. It celebrates Duke’s storied past and promising future.
The complex of four buildings was conceived as a pedestrian village within woodland, organized around a central court and wood cloister. This maintains Duke’s identity as a “university in the forest,” as it concentrates built development to optimize the surrounding woods to be a sustainable and continuous matrix of flora and fauna. Broken into courts and pavilions, the place has a human scale, comfortably serving both large and small groups.
The courtyard and buildings reflect Duke’s history and character, but through modern construction. “Duke stone” – quarried locally – is the exterior base for the large events pavilion with precast stone above, as seen on Duke’s campus. The exterior masonry wings contrast with the events pavilion’s central steel and glass pavilion; this juxtaposition is reversed in the attached meeting pavilion, with glass wings off a solid center.
Wood was used inside and out as structural and finish elements to enhance the connection between the built and natural environment, stressing Duke’s long history as a biophilic university. The visible interior makes the institutional welcome warm and inviting.
Wood glulam arches hold up zinc-clad roofs, remembering hand-carved columns and beams on campus. Nootka cypress brackets and arches of the arcades are woven together for delicate strength. Veneered paneling of walls and furnishings – using the university’s own white oak – are perforated by CNC machines in patterns of historic Duke windows. These, along with wood ceilings, hide acoustic blankets.
Next door, the Forlines House, is an historic preservation. Forlines was an early edifice of Duke stone. Its residential spaces have been restored for public meetings and offices.
The office building is clad in a dark “Duke brick” that is complementary to the stone on the neighboring structures, and helps disguise the mass. Wrought iron railings along its interior stairs play with gothic patterns against more wood ceilings.
The surrounding terraces of bluestone at the entry and arcades are flush with interior floors for accessibility. This is made feasible by hidden ground gutters below the stone that also collect run-off from arcade roofs and the central court. Site storm water drains to a campus-wide bio-pond where it is cleaned before returning to nature.