Western’s Multicultural Center, the home of the Ethnic Student Center, AS Student Advocacy and Identity Resource Centers, and Multicultural Student Services, has just won an Award of Excellence from the Association of College Unions International. The expansion combined the Multicultural Center, Viking Union, Bookstore, Multipurpose Room and KUGS within one building that honors and supports the University’s growing diverse population and engages the campus to better understand multiple cultures. The new lobby connects the union horizontally and vertically, opening up previously hidden spaces and providing a welcoming new entry to the completely renovated bookstore and the Multipurpose Room event space.
Many of the features recognized with the award grew out of long conversations among students, designers, an interpretive planner, and Western’s project team to use materials and graphics to create a space that reflects the unique spirit of our campus. The design of the textured metal façade, sunscreen, and wooden ceilings suggests the weaving traditions of local Salish people and the fabric of culturally and ethnically diverse student groups, striving to honor both the rich history and the promising future of the region. Graphics and natural wood tones invoke the water and trees so characteristic of the natural environment in Western Washington, while the building orientation and abundant windows dramatically highlight the beauty of Bellingham Bay and the campus and draw the natural world into the study, social, collaborative, and work spaces of the center.
The creation of the Multicultural Center was a years-long student driven process, funded primarily by a student fee approved by referendum in the spring 2016. Construction began in February 2018 and was completed during the summer of 2019.