Multicultural Center at Western Illinois University

Distinguished Building Award Submission

Not long ago, we lacked the cultural awareness necessary to imagine a project like Western Illinois University’s Multicultural Center. It is essentially without precedent, but it represents an emerging campus building type.

The fundamental design challenge was one central to multiculturalism itself—address opposing issues of identity and meaning between individual and collective. The Center brings together four student organizations concerned that their individuality would be lost to the University’s overarching goal for a symbol of its commitment to diversity. The resolution is clear in plan, section and elevation. Lounges and offices dedicated to each organization are organized around a central space that fosters collective interaction—a multipurpose room and dance studio on the first floor, and a shared second floor library consisting of the individual collections each group bought to the new facility.

The building’s imperfect symmetry and wrap-around “Multicultural Center” sign that invites multiple points of view to be understood are architectural metaphors for the realpolitik of multiculturalism. It is the first building designed and constructed in support of the University’s new master plan and the first sustainably designed building on campus. It features a green roof and a geothermal system that contribute to the building’s LEED Silver certification.

Nagle Hartray Architecture
Western Illinois University
  • KJWW Engineering Consultants
  • Sieben Energy Associates
General contractor
Leander Construction
Macomb, Illinois