Carson Gulley Commons - UW-Madison
The Carson Gulley Commons project entailed the complete exterior and interior renovation of a 32,000 square foot historic food service building on the UW Madison campus, as well as a 5,000 square foot mechanical addition.
Originally built in 1926 as Van Hise Refectory, it served Tripp and Adams Residence Halls (built at the same time) as the first formal dining hall on campus. The three buildings in the complex share a common palette of materials, which include Madison Sandstone, red clay tile roofs, wood windows, and deep eaves with wood rafter tails recalling an Italianate style. The Refectory went through numerous changes as food service trends developed in the ensuing decades, most notably a major remodeling with all new mechanical systems in the early 1960s. In 1966 the building was renamed for Carson Gulley, who was a chef in the building for 27 years and a local civil-rights activist and leader. It was the first UW-Madison building to be named after a civil service employee, as well as the first named after an African-American.
The diverse program allowed for a rich overlay of activities and interactions, with the Residence Hall Front Desk, Student Lounge, and Administrative Staff on the Basement level; Food Service production and dining areas on the 1st level; and Assembly space and Staff Apartment on the 2nd level. Residence Hall services (Front Desk, Student Lounge, and Staff Offices) were consolidated here in one location, whereas previously they had existed scattered throughout four different buildings.
The building design undertook to both revitalize and restore this stately old building, as well as bring it into the 21st century in terms of function, finish, and foodservice operations. The restoration included reinstating the old circle head windows (the half-circle heads had been infilled in the 1960s remodel); recreating the original millwork profiles; reexposing the original interior brick arch colonnade (encased in drywall soffits in the 1960s); and patching, repairing, and refinishing the original terrazzo floors. New elements included a glass-backed elevator at the main entrance, which peers out the existing windows onto the new outdoor patio; exposed stone on the interior of a secondary dining room space, contrasted by a wall of backlit resin panels and wood panels; a stair connecting the basement to the 1st floor, matching the original stair detailing; cutting in four new windows to the basement to match the existing openings, to allow more light into this originally unoccupied space. The design strove to maintain the character of the three main open spaces, one each on the basement, first and second floors, coordinating the mechanicals to prevent the same concessions made in previous remodeling efforts.
This project signals a revitalization of an longstanding feature on the UW-Madison campus, turning it from a backwater of necessity into a cultural, social, and culinary hub on campus; a place where students and staff alike can eat, study, meet, attend lectures; a place that both recalls the past and updates for the present, preserving for the future.