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Danna Student Center gets $3 million facelift

June 27, 2008

Loyola University New Orleans’ Danna Student Center will receive more than $3 million in renovations over the summer. Construction has already begun on the project which is slated to be completed by September. Two million dollars has been allocated by the university for the renovations and $1 million has been donated by Sodexo, the university’s food service provider, for improvements in dining facilities and services.

Award-winning designer Henry Muñoz, CEO of Kell Muñoz Architects, is the creative catalyst for the Danna Student Center renovations. His firm is the largest minority-owned architectural group in Texas and has received much acclaim for its focus on cultural activism in its work, which includes the Museo Alameda del Smithsonian in San Antonio and Texas A&M International University in Laredo.

Muñoz, an alumnus of Loyola and a former board of trustee member, is donating his and his team’s time for the renovation project. That amounts to considerable savings for the university, approximately 10-15 percent of the total cost of the renovation, according to Muñoz’s firm.

"Given who I am and my business, I felt I was uniquely positioned to give back," said Muñoz. "Because of the fact that Loyola is entering its second century, because it is this really interesting university that has things that are excellent–and it wants to be greater–it’s time to start looking at these things in a comprehensive fashion."

The team of designers and architects are incorporating spatial design, color and decor reflective of the Danna Student Center’s 1960s modern context in the redesign project. In his master plan, Muñoz offers four goals for the building: create and activate warm, welcoming, inclusive public spaces; offer the best dining services in the nation; provide attractive meeting rooms conducive to students’ needs; and allow for student organization office areas which promote interaction and collaboration.

The renovations will touch more than 90,000 square feet of space in the Danna Student Center, out of a total of 114,000 square feet. Changes will primarily consist of new paint, furniture and carpet throughout the building, new landscaping, installation of a student art gallery, redesign of the existing food mart and retail area, and a redesign of existing student organization areas and dining areas.

Muñoz capitalized on much of the previous architect’s work and infused it with his own unique vision. Muñoz's desire was to let the building be what it was meant to be – modern. Click here for a look at the new design. Muñoz also believes that the student center should reflect the diversity of the Loyola community. As a result, he placed special significance on the redesign and expansion of space for the Center for Intercultural Understanding (CIU). The CIU space at the entry of the Danna Student Center will be opened up and will incorporate multimedia equipment such as LCD projectors and a wall of six flat screen TVs that all student organization groups can use to tell their cultural story. Displays of these cultural stories will alternate among the different student groups. The CIU office will be moved to the upper floor of the building, allowing for more meeting space.

"Students needed a place to call their own," said Daniel Green, a 2007 alum and former Student Government Association president. "[The CIU] is what will grow our university, and will help it to continue to focus on our social justice and cultural mission."

Students were very much involved in the redesign process. Several student focus groups were conducted prior to the project in order to gain insight into what students envisioned for the center. The name of the new high-end deli, Satchmo’s, was selected by a student focus group. All other spaces in the Danna Student Center also will undergo creative naming revisions led by students.

Ashley Shabankareh, current SGA vice president, was involved in the focus groups and she said the finished design is reflective of what students wanted and needed.

"It’s a great thing to be asked your opinion in something like this," she said. "It means I have a voice in how these spaces are going to effectively turn out. The design is very retro and has a fresh look. It doesn’t have an old-time feel or a completely modern feel, but it’s unique in its own way."

Additionally, former SGA president and vice president, Elliot Sanchez and Adam Kohler, along with the Loyola/Muñoz/Frost-Barber, Inc., design team, visited the Steelcase showroom last spring to choose all furniture selections, insuring that every piece of furniture was selected for style, comfort and low environmental impact. Steelcase products are labeled "green" and are certified Cradle to Cradle as environmentally friendly, meaning only materials that tested safe to human and environmental health were selected.

Besides a complete physical makeover, new amenities will greet students when they return in the fall. The main level will house a CC’s Coffee Shop; a retail shop offering Saints, Hornets and Loyola athletic wear; a new eatery named Flambeaux’s; a refurbished Smoothie King; and an outdoor seating area and courtyard. The lower level will contain a student art gallery, Satchmo’s deli which features a live performance space and flat screen TVs, and a new open student organization office area.

The Danna Student Center was originally dedicated on December 6, 1964. It is named after Loyola benefactor Dr. Joseph A. Danna, a faculty member of the early post graduate school of medicine who headed a Loyola medical unit in World War I. His gift was approximately $900,000 with total construction costs of $2.5 million. Heavily influenced by the Bauhaus School of Design, the Danna Student Center was designed as a glass cube – a quintessential characteristic of the Modern architectural design movement that used glass for the façade, steel for exterior support, and concrete floors for interior support.

For more information on the Danna Student Center renovations, contact Meredith Hartley at mhartley@loyno.edu or (504) 861-5883, or visit http://www.loyno.edu/dannacenter/renovations.

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