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New TUC a Bright Idea

The expanded and renovated Tangeman University Center and the new Joseph A. Steger Student Life Center make light of formidable design challenges. TUC recently reopened to campus users, and visitors can’t believe how the once dour interior has really lightened up.

Date: 4/29/2004 12:00:00 AM
By: Mary Reilly
Phone: (513) 556-1824
Photos By: new TUC images by Andrew Higley

UC ingot  

“We cored the building like you’d core an apple.”  That’s how the New York architect who helped design the reopened Tangeman University Center described the central change to the nearly 70-year-old structure.  Now, the new building core is one of light provided by a soaring, 90-foot atrium crowned by a skylight and by the old TUC’s beloved clock tower.

But just like an apple, the seeds of this new TUC are to be found in the old structure first built in 1935.  Project manager Greg Karn of New York’s Gwathmey Siegel & Associates Architects explained that the process to renovate TUC began in 1999 with discussions between students and designers.  He said, “The students wanted to keep the iconic elements of the original building, including its Greek Revival façade that echoed McMicken Hall just across the central commons and the distinctive clock tower.  But, they also wanted light, a dynamic atmosphere to see and be seen – not the deep and almost foreboding sense the building’s interior then brought.”

From those meetings, he added, came the idea to “core the building, creating a dramatic atrium to serve as a guiding beacon no matter where you are in the building.  It’s the powerful central element that negates the maze-like sense of the original building.”

Interior view in old TUC

One visitor during the building’s opening day remarked, “You wouldn’t ever think it was the old Tangeman.  It says, ‘Look at me!  How do you like me?!...It should have been done years ago.”

And though she has fond memories of the old TUC, former student and current employee Cassandra McGee agrees.  “I remember the old TUC.  I remember the game room.  Back when I was a student in April 1974, I spent half the night in the old game room.  That was the evening tornados hit Saylor Park, and we had to stay inside and underground.  We got to do everything for free.  We bowled for free, shot pool for free, drank 3.2 beer.  We were down there till after midnight, and I got in trouble when I finally got home.”

Interior view in old TUC

Despite those memories, McGee praises the revamped building, “Frankly, I’m impressed, and that’s hard.  I don’t impress easy…It’s lovely, and I’m glad they kept the clock tower too.”

Everyone seems to be able to find their own niche and what they like about the new building.  Freshman Jennifer Walter says she most appreciates the “comfy cushioned chairs” of the study/lounge area on the building’s east side overlooking Nippert Stadium.  Part-time education student Barbara McDonald only wandered in to the new TUC after she tried to visit the Dining Pavilion bubble, where university dining options have been housed since construction began on TUC in early 2001.

“I tried to go to the bubble and the food court there.  I didn’t even realize that TUC was even open.  I just found out by accident, but it was a happy accident,” she laughed.  Looking around, McDonald added, “You know, this will be a great place to come to hide from cicadas…”

Ribbon cutting:
Though TUC is already in use and staff members are moving in to the SLC, a ribbon cutting for the building is set to coincide with the formal inauguration of UC President Nancy L. Zimpher.  The inauguration ceremony is set for 3:30 p.m., Friday, May 21, in the Fifth Third Arena at Shoemaker Center.  The doors open at 2:30 p.m. and a musical showcase prelude begins at 2:40 p.m.  A UC MainStreet ribbon cutting – celebrating the newly renovated and expanded TUC along with the completion of the new Joseph A. Steger Student Life Center – will immediately follow the inauguration ceremonies.  That ribbon cutting in the Fifth Third Arena is set to take place at 5 p.m. and will kick off a Mainstreet Preview Celebration at TUC.   

The celebrations continue into the next day, Saturday, May 22.  The MainStreet Preview Celebration continues at TUC, with a few events also in SLC, from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. that day, followed by the Sigma Sigma Carnival from 7 p.m.-1 a.m. on Sigma Sigma Commons. 

The price tag for renovating TUC was $50.7 million while the cost for the new Steger student life center was $26 million, none of which came from tuition monies.  Rather, just like other university centers, student facilities and rec facilities throughout the state and nation, UC’s new student union and student life center are paid for by ongoing student fees that currently amount to $119 per quarter. 

That seems like a steep price, but it’s actually about as low cost as a project like this can be.  According to architecture Greg Karn, “UC is doing so much with very limited resources.  The cost per square foot on this project was extremely low.  For instance, the buildings outer shell cost about $25 per square foot.  That’s very, very little money for an exterior covering.  We achieved that by using the zinc skin, which is much more common in Europe, and applying it as a wall using a roofing technique.  That technique reduced our workmanship costs tremendously.”  

Other facts on TUC: 

Historic view of old TUC

• The original structure was built in 1935.  It was simply called the Student Union then.

• It was named the Donald Core Tangeman University Center after World War II, in honor of Donald C. Tangeman, killed in action on March 28, 1945.  Donald was the son of 1913 UC alumnus Walter W. Tangeman.

• Renovation and expansion began in early 2001.  The new structure consists of 180,000 square feet, compared to 160,000 in the old TUC.

• The new facilities include:
An 800-seat Great Hall
A 600-seat food court 
A 200-seat movie theater
The campus bookstore
Convenience store
Conference and meeting spaces 
Credit union 
Game room
Study and lounge space

Offices and facilities located in the new 500-foot-long, 40-foot-wide Joseph A. Steger Student Life Center, designed by Moore Ruble Yudell Architects & Planners of Santa Monica, will house:
• UC Bookstore business center
• Center for Community Engagement
• Ethnic Programs and Services
• Judicial Affairs
• Philip M. Meyers Jr. Memorial Art Gallery
• Professional Practice
• Student Life
• Student Government
• Student Organizations and Activities
• Wellness Center
• Women’s Center
• Computer lab
• Starbuck’s and food service, including Subway
• Meeting spaces

Project designer Mario Violich, senior associate with Moore Ruble Yudell Architects & Planners, explained that the SLC had many elements to foster student and staff interaction.  “The bay windows comprising the south side of the building, facing MainStreet, make the building a place to see and be seen.  It also has what I call ‘social stairs,’ stairs with generous landings and benches.  It’s the place where you can bump into someone and stand or even quickly sit and talk”

He admitted that the extremely narrow building site was quite the challenge but also an opportunity that eventually led to creatively incorporating daylight into just about every corner of the building by means of the wall of windows facing onto TUC. 

SLC not only incorporates great views of the central commons to the south but also more intimate views into the Mews gardens on the north side.  Said Violich, “It would have been easy to treat the narrow slip of space between SLC and Swift Hall as residual space, but we wanted to create another kind of public realm, something in contrast to the hard, open, urban feel of MainStreet.  The Mews gardens is that contrast.  They’re soft, intimate and varied.”

In addition to Gwathmey Siegel & Associates Architects and Moore Ruble Yudell Architects & Planners, UC’s own architecture and planning staff – and Cincinnati firms – contributed to the completion of the university’s newest additions to the master plan.  Working on these projects over the years were:

• Ron Kull, university architect
• Ray Renner, director of construction management
• Bob Marton and Greg Robinson, project managers
• Eileen Kathman, Carol Metzger and Pam McCreary, who provided accounting services
• Jack Schneider, Gary Wilkin, Jason Moore and Kurt Ponting, senior staff engineers
• Len Thomas, Michael Burreill, Katie Peter and Mark Petullo, planning staff
• Messer Construction
• Glaserworks
• GBBN Architects