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Gonzaga's new student center is a bustling social hub

Retail mall features, comfortable furniture, and floor-to-ceiling glass add vibrancy to the new John J. Hemmingson Center.

May 31, 2016 |
Gonzaga's new student center is bustling social hub

The new John J. Hemmingson Center’s “main street” features several dining options, including a Starbucks. Photo: Christian Columbres. Click here to enlarge.

Take a stroll through Gonzaga University’s new John J. Hemmingson Center and you might get the feeling of walking through a retail mall or airport terminal, rather than a student center.

Day and night, the building’s “main street” is bustling with activity—students grabbing a coffee at Starbucks, shopping at the natural foods grocery, working at the tech center, or having a bite at the food court. Clusters of cozy furniture encourage students to relax, socialize, study, and meet for group assignments.

John J. Hemmingson Center 
Gonzaga University
Spokane, Wash.

A grand staircase and a series of bridges connect the building’s three floors, while floor-to-ceiling glass—interior and exterior—creates a sense of openness and transparency. In any spot, students are no more than 30 feet from a natural light source.

“Every corner of this building is in use, even on nights and weekends,” says Chuck Faulkinberry, the facility’s Director.

The LEED Gold facility is a sustainability showcase. Centralized geothermal heat pumps tap into an underground aquifer to meet the center’s heating and cooling needs. A rooftop greenhouse yields organic produce for student dining.

The Building Team, working under a modified design-build contract, developed clever solutions to several complex issues.

Problem: How to accommodate food service needs for a 650-seat food court, 900-seat ballroom, and retail dining areas.

Solution: The team placed the central kitchen below grade and stacked the dining and ballroom functions to increase efficiencies.

Problem: How to cost-effectively glaze the atrium spaces.

Solution: The team worked with code officials to develop an alternate path that allowed the perimeter walls of the atrium to be fully glazed without a fire rating.


The main entrance is marked by a dramatic cantilevered structure inscribed with a quote from Very Rev. Adolfo Nicolás Pachón, Superior General of the Society of Jesus. Photo: Christian Columbres. Click to enlarge.



+Submitting firm: Hoffman Construction (GC)
+Owner: Gonzaga University
+Architects: Opsis Architecture (design), Bernardo-Wills Architects (associate)
+Electrical, Structural: DCI Engineers
+Mechanical, Plumbing: MW Consulting Engineers


Project size: 170,000 sf
Construction cost: $60 million
Construction period: August 2013 to June 2015
Delivery method: Design-build

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