UW-La Crosse Academic Building

Project Number: #05I3O

Art Budget: $84,000 (Expected to cover all design and fabrication expenses associated with the project.)

Application/Image Deadline: Deadline has passed; for reference only

Eligibility Criteria: All artists from Arts Midwest region are eligible to apply 

(Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin)

Art Schedule

Design Due: Spring 2010

Installation: TBD, pending location

Construction Completion: May 31, 2011

Architects: River Architects, La Crosse WI


The University

The University of Wisconsin-La Crosse is a four year comprehensive university organized into the Colleges of Business Administration; Science and Health; and Liberal Studies. The university’s compact 119-acre campus is nestled in a residential section of the City of La Crosse midway between the towering bluffs and the mighty Mississippi River. Wide green areas, tall shade trees and a magnificent view of the bluffs make University of Wisconsin–La Crosse a beautiful place for living and learning. The La Crosse area (frequently referred to as “The Coulee Region”) is famous for its exceptional natural beauty. http://www.uwlax.edu/​


The New Academic Building

The over-arching theme of the new facility is global diversity. The new Academic Building houses Multi-Cultural Student Services, Campus Climate, International Education, Women’s Studies, Communication Studies, and Career Services, etc. No place is this theme clearer than on the first floor where the Hall of Nations is located at the center of the first floor amid the offices for Multi-Cultural Student Services, International Education and Campus Climate. In addition, the new Academic building serves as a multi-use classroom building for the entire campus. It also provides offices for the College of Science and Health, Counseling and Testing and a number of other programs/departments.

The New Academic Building is located at the center of campus on the site vacated by the demolition of three existing 1960 era structures: Baird Hall, Trowbridge Hall, and Wilder Hall in the heart of the academic core. The New Academic Building will consist of a new state-of-the-art four story, 187,995 GSF academic building accommodating 46 general assignment classrooms and various departments. The building will fill an entire city block and has three major entrances that respond to the critical traffic patterns on the east off the campus mall, to the southeast off the 16th Street and Vine Street drop-off circle, and to the northwest for residence hall use. The entrances are marked by two-story masonry porches that distinguish these portals from the building mass. Each of the three entries has a formal entry patio consisting of pavers on concrete, raised seat walls and decorative lighting.

The new academic building on an east-west axis and north-south orientation was designed to maximize energy conservation. This is the first ‘green’ building on the UW La Crosse campus, and a LEED Silver certification will be sought. The importance of natural light and views influenced the c-shaped floor plan that embraces the south facing courtyard. This layout affords an abundance of natural light on all four sides of the building which will reduce the lighting and electrical consumption. The south-facing courtyard brings natural light into the center of the building.

The entrance at the south courtyard serves as the formal main entrance to the new facility. Immediately inside this entrance on the ground floor (level 1)is a welcoming two- story lobby area and a large multi-purpose room, that will seat 300. This will be the International Studies Center’s Hall of Nations. The Hall of Nations will be entered via two floor-to-ceiling glass doors. In addition, two 250 seat auditoriums are also located on this ground floor.

The interior is purposefully arranged around a double loaded loop circulation scheme that ties to stairs at each entrance point. The four level plan is spatially interconnected by strategically positioned two-story lobbies that open at levels 1 to 2, and 3 to 4. The remaining 46 academic classrooms are located on levels 1, 2, and 3 and are intermixed with the departmental suites on levels 1, 2, and 4. Classrooms located on 1- 3 floors can handle 1000-1500 students at one time; all together 5000 students may be attending classes here at any given time. Collaborative study areas are scattered on all levels and offer spontaneous interactive learning opportunities in quiet and open settings, alone or in small groups. An innovation space- a technology laden multi-purpose space- is located on the second floor. Interior floor finishes include terrazzo, carpet and tile throughout the facility. A roof terrace occurs on the 3rd floor with intimate user areas integrated with landscape planters, trellises and seating areas.

Overall, the exterior design references the traditional collegiate architecture prevalent on the rest of the campus and the building utilizes a base, a middle and top. The exterior design uses traditional masonry massing with syncopated punched window openings and two and three story entrance porches to establish the building’s classic character. The careful juxtaposition of the window rhythm and detailing reinterprets the collegiate gothic style of nearby Graff Main Hall. The natural palette of custom color-blended brick, precast concrete trim, champagne color metal, and glass was chosen to complement existing buildings on the UW-La Crosse campus. Sunscreens are strategically placed on west facing windows to reduce heat gain.

A central courtyard that opens to the south creates an informal space for use by the students and faculty. The courtyard is enclosed on the west, north and east sides protecting it from winds yet allowing light into the space via the south opening. Sunken planters and movable site furniture provide variety and life to the space. A formal circular rain garden, planted with a monoculture, located south of this courtyard integrates a boardwalk covered rainwater distribution trough into the design. 


The Site

The 2005 Campus Master Plan positioned the new building strategically on the southwest side of the proposed new central campus mall. The building has an eastern frontage that will help define the new mall, as well as a community/commuter student access to the parking lot on the southwest corner, and access to the residence hall on the northwest corner. The building site is surrounded with major pedestrian, bicycle and service circulation routes on all four sides and is bordered by key academic buildings on all sides [ view campus map ]. At least 200 bike parking stalls will be implemented at building entries.

Multiple rain gardens and stone drainage ways will increase infiltration and assist in controlling runoff rates and quantities. A circular rain garden located south of the courtyard and an integrated a boardwalk covered rainwater distribution trough crosses this rain garden. The trough accepts roof runoff and distributes it into the rain garden via scuppers located below the boardwalk. A second rain garden located north of the building also accepts roof runoff and distributes it into a planted depressed area. Both rain gardens are designed with overflow routes and both serve as great educational tools promoting LEED and sustainable design. All landscape materials include native plantings and close derivatives to reduce maintenance issues and to promote sustainable design. The design provides both educational opportunities and a unique element to the site. 



The primary audience for this facility will be the majority of the student and faculty population since the majority of general classroom space will be located in this facility. In addition, the general public may attend events in the Hall of Nations on the first floor. The selection committee is interested in artwork that may be sited in multiple locations throughout the interior and/or the exterior of the new facility. The selection committee is interested in exploring artwork that could reveal itself and change over time along with more traditional approaches. 


Potential Locations

The selection committee has identified both interior and exterior locations and will also consider locations identified by the artist. Please note that due to the perforation of walls with windows or other architectural trim, there are not significant interior blank wall surfaces, except as noted below.

Interior locations include:

  1. The two story main lobby area. [ image ]
  2. A T-shaped area consisting of the main lobby area and central east-west corridor connecting to the corridor leading to and culminating with the two 250 seat auditoriums. [ image ] [ image ]
  3. The two story blank wall to the right at the east entrance. [ image ]
  4. Glass treatment of the ‘Hall of Nations’ entrance doors. [ image ] [ image ]
  5. Exterior sites may include:
  6. The paved courtyard area (approx. 70 ft x 100 ft) at the south entrance area. 
  7. [ image ] [ image ] [ image ]
  8. The ring garden area; this is a rain garden. Artwork may be sited in the rain garden but should not impact the function of the rain garden. 
  9. [ image ] [ image ] [ image ]
  10. The green space located SW of the South entrance. [ image ] [ image ]
  11. The green space immediately adjacent to the east face of the building, just north of the main entrance of the building. [ image ]
  12. Please note that the central mall area is not supported by this project and will not be considered for artwork.

Conceptual Considerations

The selection committee is interested in artwork that celebrates global sustainability and cultural diversity in all of its aspects. In addition, the selection committee is interested in artwork that:

  • Creates a comprehensive conceptual connection between the existing places on the campus where art is valued, i.e., the nearby Center for the Arts, Wing Technology Center and the new Academic Bldg.
  • Functions as collection or a body of work—multiple images or objects located throughout the facility.
  • Will encourage collaboration with students in the design of the artwork.
  • Utilizes the seasonal or daily light changes in the environment, such as shadows or daily or seasonal sunlight changes.
  • Changes and/or is revealed over time.
  • Supports the building’s ‘green’ or sustainability theme by creating awareness of or is symbolic of ideas/concepts related to environmental/energy conservation issues.
  • Contains multiple layers of metaphoric meaning.
  • Has a strong intellectual and poetic dimension.
  • Is timeless and bears repeated viewing over time.
  • Is complex enough to allow viewers to learn from it over time and provides a sense of discovery.

Potential Materials

The selection committee is interested in permanent durable materials that support the artist’s vision. Living materials such as landscape materials or other materials whose character may change over time will also be considered. The campus is not interested in materials with inherent obsolescence, such as components utilizing technology.