Avila University Marian Center, Kansas City, Missouri


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Description: In 2012, Avila University's Dining Hall received an extreme makeover. The previous, cafeteria feeling environment was transformed into warm, welcoming cafe experience that extended its typical mealtime use into a central gathering place for Avila's community of students to meet and study after dining hours. In addition, a new glass atrium-like enclosure over the existing structured outdoor patio area increased the dining hall's capacity by over 50% to around 327 seats, while creating a new sun room for year-round use.

Rethinking the single, large space furnished with rows of tables and chairs which gave it a very institutional feeling, the new design was deliberate in creating a variety of seating options and atmospheres in four distinct seating areas - four person booth seating along wall niches, two person tables along windows, raised countertops, two and four seat tables clustered in a way that allows for privacy or intimacy while also being flexible for different sizes of groupings. Two side areas have booths and banquettes with high performance fabric backs and wood trim, as well as two- and four-top tables and counters with stools where students can use laptops. The center area has more dense seating where tables can be reconfigured to accommodate students groups, with banquet seating and counters at the perimeter. And the new sunroom area has two-top round and four-top tables with stools to provide a more casual dining feel.

Serving lines are clustered centrally next to the kitchen and no longer in the middle of the room where they previously tended to conflict with seated patrons. More edges and boundaries are created through the use of high-tops, booths and built-ins that define a variety of unique spaces to sit alone or gather with friends. Accent lighting has been used in addition to general ambient lighting in a way that emphasizes these separate clusters of space as well as the use of cloud-like or grid-like suspended ceiling elements which only partially obscure the taller, open ceiling. As part of the renovation, the kitchen was entirely reconfigured to provide a more efficient operation, separating food prep and dish washing areas.

The new look is immediately apparent as a lot less like a cafeteria and more like a fast casual restaurant or coffeehouse. Fabrics used have a large scale pattern to enhance the restaurant/ hospitality feel. And the addition of wireless internet service throughout the Dining Hall allows for individual study time at the raised counters or study groups at any of the seating groupings.

Using extremely durable finishes, such as Green Krypton fabrics, which are stain, bacteria, mildew and odor resistant, the furniture depicts an upscale restaurant look. The floor finishes evoke a more industrial elegance with the use of stained and polished concrete.

Sustainable design features were implemented throughout, including Greenguard rated chairs, recycled content in the cloud ceiling tiles and seating fabrics, low VOC paints and floor finishes, FSC certified wood products in the suspended wood ceilings and rapidly renewable materials and/or local materials where possible. Energy efficient lighting was utilized in the various types of direct / indirect fluorescent lighting - with switching capabilities allowing them to be turned off during the daytime.