Planning a New Greek Village at the University of West Florida
By: Roger Godwin, AIA, LEED AP
The fraternities and sororities at the University of West Florida (UWF) don’t have their own houses – or even a chapter room large enough to accommodate all of their members. In spite of this, the Greek system is thriving there in Pensacola, and the University wants to support the interests of these philanthropic and fraternal organizations that can enrich the lives of the students.
Several years ago, UWF had the foresight to plan a new Greek Village to support the members of these fraternities and sororities. A site was identified and the architectural and planning team of DAG Architects and HKS was selected to develop a Master Plan and Phase 1 schematic plans that met the needs of both the University and the Greek organizations to create a new community that embraces the Greek culture and ceremony.
Providing the Greek organizations their own unique campus area will enhance their student experience through communal living and bonding, and provide connections to their alumnae institutions and the community. In addition, students who are involved in Greek life during their collegiate years are known to have stronger connections to their Alma Mater after graduation, and universities benefit from these long-lasting ties that bring alumnae back to the campus and encourage their on-going financial support.
Through a series of visioning charrettes led by the DAG/HKS team members, key representatives of the university and the Greek organizations came to a consensus on what they wanted to see in UWF’s new Greek Village. These “guiding principles” included the following 3 areas:
Create a Strong Sense of Community
The University would construct, own and manage the buildings, with each house leased to the specific fraternity or sorority and their alumni organization. Even though the houses will be individualized, they share many standardized construction elements and systems for ease of maintenance. Each Greek organization will be able to claim “ownership” of their part of the building and express their own unique visual identity within the overall “village.” Different colors, materials, massing and roof forms will give each building its own character. Exterior variations to personalize their building can include entry elements, canopies, colonnades, landscaping, exterior pediments, and lighting; while on the interior standard finishes can be upgraded if the chapter wants to pay the additional cost.
The buildings would be oriented so that most Greek groups would be visible from a common greenscape / lawn area, and inside, each will include space for events and entertainment - a large chapter room, living room and dining area to support the chapter’s specific activities and to promote bonding among the members.
Promote Growth, Grades and the Greek Presence on Campus
The Greek Village will be a special enclave, but also open, visible and inviting to the entire student body at UWF. Buildings will be visible from the roadway and a “wow” factor will mark its entrance. A Commons Building, planned for a future phase, can be used by all students for dining, study, collaboration, and meetings of more than one organization. Pedestrian walkways will be used throughout to improve the connectivity between the Greek Village and the main campus.
Provide Outdoor Greenspace for Communal Activities
The site selected for UWF’s Greek Village is severely sloped and high first costs will be incurred because the University’s current infrastructure of utilities and technology doesn’t yet extend to that location. Several different options are being considered for the common greenspace, but all feature generous outdoor common gathering spaces, with parking concealed behind the buildings.
The common greenspace / lawn can be shared by all for recreation and special events, and intimate courtyard areas will provide more individuality for smaller events. A variety of different schemes for placement of the individual buildings were presented, and one called “Square Green” was preferred by the stakeholders, winning out over “Wiggle Green I and II” and “Triple Court.”
No One Wants to Clean Bathrooms Anymore
The buildings themselves are made up of flexible modules that can accommodate a variety of chapter sizes. Each component will include Common Space, Bedroom Units, Living Room, Chapter/Dining Room, and an outdoor patio. Although the Greek system on the UWF campus is a robust one, the University officials decided to take a conservative approach and provide housing for 7 Greek organizations in the first phase. The initial 150 beds will eventually be expanded to the full build-out of 800 beds.
The schematic design was based on a flexible “kit” of parts consisting of a chapter room/dining room, circulation and public space, and bedroom units with “wet cores.” Unlike more traditional bathroom arrangement in single bedrooms or suites, a wet core consists of a cluster of several single bathrooms for use by all occupants, with a common, open vanity area. The wet core promotes community living while still offering privacy. This concept not only lowers construction costs, but also offers residents the advantage of having the restrooms cleaned by University staff rather than by themselves. Because a common dining building is planned for a future phase, the Phase 1 buildings include warming kitchens as part of the chapter rooms instead of full kitchens.
The master plan and Phase I drawings were completed by the DAG Architects / HKS team in early 2015, and the Greek Village development is currently awaiting funding by the University to implement the first phase.
For additional information about this project or DAG Architects, please contact:
Roger Godwin, AIA, LEED AP