Duke University is one of the nation’s elite institutions of higher education. But until recently, the buildings housing its student health and counseling services weren’t exactly top-tier.

“Those facilities were often inadequate and ineffectively aligned,” says Sue Wasiolek, Duke’s assistant vice president for student affairs and dean of students.

The student health center was located in a remote area of Duke Hospital South, counseling and psychological services were in a cramped space on West Campus, and DuWell (health education, wellness promotion, and risk mitigation) was in a basement in a building on East Campus, where DukeReach (case management services) was also housed.

For students, that translated to a lot of walking from one location to another. “With the new center, the approach to their health is very holistic, with wellness programs and other support services integrated alongside physical and emotional health services under one roof,” says Wasiolek.

The new consolidated Student Wellness Center (SWC) is an L-shaped, three-story facility that opened in January 2017. The SWC—more commonly known on campus as “The Well”—sits on a formerly wooded site adjacent to a main campus circulation path that connects student services, housing, and athletics facilities.

In addition to giving the consolidated health services a high-profile, central location, the university invested $27 million to create an inviting environment that would attract students—whether they’re sick or not. Hired to design the building was Duda|Paine Architects (Durham, N.C.).

The center is Duda|Paine’s fifth health-related project at Duke; its previous efforts include Duke Integrative Medicine and the Trent Semans Center for Health Education. Those projects emphasized design that brings the outside in and “provided a meaningful platform for us to expand strategies for using the physical environment to shape an experience that’s both healing and relaxing,” says Turan Duda, one of the firm’s founding principals.

For the 72,000-square-foot SWC, the result is a main entry experience that features a glass, two-story atrium bringing in natural light and providing views of the outdoors, including the adjacent Duke forest. A monumental entry stair follows a translucent wall, anchoring the bright and airy space and creating a soaring element that the designers say “emphasizes the intersection of care, prevention, and social interaction in achieving wellness,” as it links the various services housed on the three floors.

Beyond that, the building’s layout and adjacencies have been thoughtfully plotted to enhance the user experience. “Layers of discretion and privacy increase with each ascending floor,” says Duda.

Specifically, the ground floor houses case management services, while student health is housed in an open and inviting environment on the second floor. Psychological services and physical therapy, which require the most discretion and privacy, are on the top floor.

“The building provides programmatic spaces that simultaneously support clinical care and the promotion of healthy lifestyles,” notes Jeffrey Paine, Duda|Paine’s other founding principal. “Student health, for instance, includes 16 exam rooms, travel/immunization clinics, and radiology. Two shared suites depart from traditional models of individual clinician offices to facilitate staff collaboration.”

Duke officials say the SWC has proven to be a hit with both students and staff, pointing to such metrics from its first year of operation as a 6 percent increase in student health appointments, a 10 percent decrease in appointment no-shows, and a 28 percent increase in walk-in visits for counseling and psychological services.

Matthew Hall is a Cincinnati-based freelance writer.


Source List:

Project name: Duke Student Wellness Center

Completion date: January 2017

Owner: Duke University

Total building area: 72,000 sq. ft.

Total construction cost: $27 million

Cost/sq. ft.: $375/sq. ft.

Architecture: Duda|Paine Architects

Interior design: Duda|Paine Architects

Contracting: Gilbane Building Co.

Structural/Landscape/Civil Engineering: Stewart, Inc.

MEP Engineering: Newcomb & Boyd

Healthcare Consultant: MHTN

Lighting Designer: Cline Bettridge Bernstein Design

Construction: Gilbane Building Co.

Art/pictures: Duke University

AV equipment/electronics/software: Kontek Systems

Carpet/flooring: Interface

Ceiling/wall systems: USG [typical panels]

Doors/locks/hardware: Hardware Distributors Inc.

Fabric/textiles: Maharam [reception desks]

Furniture—seating/casegoods: Bernhardt [lobby, reception]; Dauphin/Knoll [conferencing]; HBF/Andreu World [student lounge]; Davis/Allermuir/Keilhauer [staff lounge]

Handrails/wall guards: Stainless Fabricators Inc.

Lighting: Louis Poulsen ‘Enigma’ [main lobby]

Signage/wayfinding: Duke University [ADA]; Duda|Paine Architects [wayfinding]; Fisher Graphics Arts [installation]

Surfaces—solid/other: Virginia Slate [main lobby]; CaraGreen [vanity countertops]; Lumicor [lobby accent wall]

Wallcoverings: Maharam [reception desks]

Other: Terreal [exterior terra cotta panels]; Efco [curtain wall glazing]; Douglas Fir glued-laminated timbers [lobby structure]; reclaimed site lumber [lobby benches]; Maniscalco ‘Bottany Bay Pebbles’ [accent flooring in lobby]