Exterior view of the national veterans resource center
Courtesy James Ewing/JBSA

SHoP Architects Designs a Multi-Use Facility for Veterans at Syracuse University

The National Veterans Resource Center finds its forever home in central New York’s Salt City.

Through its unique participation in drafting the 1944 GI Bill, Syracuse University has fostered decades of commitment and collaboration with United States service members, veterans, and their respective organizations. Building on this history, the campus has recently opened the doors to the National Veterans Resource Center (NVRC), a new permanent facility that was designed by SHoP Architects. They are one of the nearly 30 northeastern firms selected in 2015 to participate in a competition for this bid.

Also referred to as the Daniel and Gayle D’Aniello Building, the NVRC demonstrates fitness for purpose for every space of the 126,000-square-foot center. In it, SHoP manages to bring together roughly ten tenants—including the Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF), a few ROTC headquarters, and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs VetSuccess on Campus—of veterans-focused offices and programs previously spread across campus. These now rest alongside traditional education and event spaces such as classrooms, research labs, and a banquet hall. The facility is poised to support roughly 40,000 veterans a year.

The building serves as an important physical and social conduit between academia and cityscape, as well as military and civilian life.

Interior lobby view of the national veterans resource center
Courtesy James Ewing/JBSA

“A lot of our veterans are challenged when they get back and we wanted to create this as a completely shared experience,” says Christopher Sharples, a founding principal at the firm, noting that the building now serves as an important physical and social conduit between the academic environment and cityscape, as well as military and civilian life.

Imbued with civic duty, the four-story structure provides a spatial experience that feels democratic for all users through the situating of its city-block-wide, monumental base in the shallow of a hill upon which the campus sits. The ground and first floors outwardly appear to meld with an important city corner juncture where a shift in elevation marks the transition from urban to campus fabric. Inside, a series of subtle program changes and sloped floors mitigate this physical transition to make circulation nearly seamless while assimilating academic areas with public space.

Interior view of the entrance ramp to the national veterans resource center
Courtesy James Ewing/JBSA

Accessibility is paramount in the veteran’s social transition and the architecture is empathetic of that. Comfort and ease-of-use are celebrated through ADA requirements that become significant architectural elements like the lower levels’ ramped promenade that wraps around the building’s public nucleus—a 750-seat, multi-story auditorium. 

The auditorium is surrounded by an exhibition space with a visual gravity that pulls people in. Interior walls rise up as a rippling wave of Douglas fir panels over the ramp system while a two-story glazed curtain wall eliminates the threshold between exterior and interior. A generous courtyard at the entrance proper slips underneath the glass exterior creating an undertow from the street to the canopy’s underside.

Interior view of an auditorium
Courtesy James Ewing/JBSA

The upper-most mass and top floor of the NVRC sits in contrast to those below it in programming, materiality, and access. Angular aluminum fins protruding by 10, 12, 14, or 16 inches from a reflective glass curtain wall create an atmospheric mirror—taking advantage of Syracuse’s uniquely gray skies—shields a ring of offices and private spaces. The rooms and those with access to them are privy to views of the city and campus outward as well as the rooftop parade ground that lies inward.

“This is where [military students and veterans alike] can go and have intimate celebrations,” says William Sharples, another founding principal of the firm. “They saw it as a profound gift in terms of how the project speaks to them.”

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