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Kent State University

Design Innovation Hub

Reviving an old campus building as a new space for creation and innovation

Project Details

  • Name: Design Innovation Hub
  • Location: Kent, OH
  • sector: Higher Education,
  • service: Architecture,
  • status: Complete
  • Size: 75,000 sq. ft.
  • Awards:

    AIA Education Facility Design Award, Merit Award

    SCUP Excellence Award, Building Additions, Renovation or Adaptive Reuse

    AIA Pittsburgh Honor Award
  • Recognition:

    LEED Silver Certified
  • Collaborators:

    Bohlin Cywinski Jackson Architects and Nelson Byrd Woltz
"...[T]hey took the time to listen and understand the needs and project challenges"

...strong technical expertise and attention to detail

Michael Wasowski

Project Manager, KSU


Looking to repurpose its 1970s-era School of Art Building, Kent State University sought our visions for a new Design Innovation Hub. The University saw the building as an opportunity to expand its ‘ecosystem of innovation’ by providing a space that would be owned by all and shared by all. A hub that would bring students, faculty, and experts together from diverse disciplines to collaborate on new innovative endeavors. 


Building on a deep relationship with the University, we teamed up with national design firm Bohlin Cywinski Jackson Architects to propose and deliver a complete transformation of the existing Arts Building into a new Design Innovation Hub. Listening closely to the University’s goals and ambitions, our team developed a concept and strategy for transforming the building, and delivered the project through a process of in-depth collaboration. Assigned as the Architect of Record, we provided our respected ‘nuts and bolts’ service by successfully managing the design team and process and ensuring the University's goals were met.


Through our conceptual design stage, we discovered that a major priority for the University was to make the most of the building’s central location. We re-imagined the original building and its context, envisioning it as a central thoroughfare that would encourage students and staff to experience the building and site as they wound their way across campus. What was previously an alley-like shortcut around the old building was transformed into a beautifully terraced pedestrian avenue. This ‘avenue concept’ was coupled with a top-level 350-person dining space – a facility designed to encourage the student body to relax and enjoy the transformed building. Located below the dining space, hatchery, and proto-typing labs, think tank areas and makerspaces with state-of-the-art tools and technologies are positioned centrally, allowing visual access to the multiple offerings available to students and faculty.  


By attracting students and staff from all over the campus, the transformed Design Innovation Hub showcases the talents of the design innovation community to inspire visitor curiosities, involvement and collaboration. 


Exposing its steel structural skeleton, the original building was completely clad in a translucent wall panel system. This aging and yellowing translucent panel system was replaced with a combination of glazing and terracotta rainscreen panels. The terracotta masonry was purposefully used as a nod to the campus’ more conservative masonry brick vernacular. And the expansive use of glass redefines the building as a transparent, light-filled addition to KSU’s campus. Subtly altering and developing the campus’ architectural expression and identity allowed the building to be more sustainable, and helped it achieve a green building LEED certification.   


Inside the DI Hub, the original steel structure was painted white and left exposed, providing clean, gallery-like open spaces. The sense of transparency expressed on the exterior is also carried through to the interior by using glazed walls between the dedicated tech spaces and circulation routes, all revealing the building’s functions to those passing by outside. Working closely with national landscape architects Nelson Byrd Woltz and local landscape architect of record Knight & Stolar, Inc, the DI Hub further works to bring the outside in by providing greater pedestrian access and attractive green spaces directly within its vicinity, while respecting the surrounding historic May 4th site. 


Strengthening our relationship with KSU, we are proud of the finished building, and have enjoyed seeing it promote and nurture design projects between students and staff from all over the campus. Having achieved its goal, we look forward to helping the University with future challenges.

"...[T]hey took the time to listen and understand the needs and project challenges"

...strong technical expertise and attention to detail

Michael Wasowski

Project Manager, KSU