What’s particularly unusual about Gordon, compared to most residence hall dining facilities nationwide, is that residential customers pay for their food using their declining balance accounts and nonresidents use either their WisCard funds or pay cash. “Gordon has not typically catered to the public in the past, but now that it’s open and the location is convenient, more cash business is done with the public, as well as faculty, staff and students,” Schoonover says. “In addition, Gordon’s meeting rooms are booked solid, which leads to a huge catering business.”
Also unusual is the division of central production at two separate facilities — cook-chill at Gordon and cold food production at Four Lakes. “Central production was costly to implement, but its benefits include the ability to produce a variety of menu items, limited labor and improved food quality,” Schoonover says. “Dividing the production was a result of space availability and labor efficiencies due to our ability to cross-train managers because one management team is not exclusively dedicated to a central kitchen.”
What isn’t unusual but is certainly a positive result of intense planning and myriad focus groups with students, faculty and staff, is increased sales volume from an operation that meets students’ expectations across the board. “The facility is as sophisticated as the customers’ tastes,” Schoonover says. “To date, in the Gordon Dining and Event Center, resident sales are up 20 percent compared to those in the former facility, and nonresident sales have exceeded budget by 68 percent.”
“Our team was challenged to create a building that exemplified not only the college but also the city of Madison and the state of Wisconsin,” says Mecayla Cobb, AIA, LEED AP BD+C, senior associate with Cannon Design, architects and interior designers for the project. “From the onset, our task was to strengthen the sense of campus community with colors and materials reflecting the local palette of the region.”
The outcome is a space featuring locally branded dining venues, such as Capital City Pizza Company, in recognition of Madison being the state’s capital; Buckingham Bakery, named after the school’s mascot, Bucky the Badger; and 1849, which highlights the year University of Wisconsin–Madison was established. Other campus dining spaces also incorporate this branding. “Branded venues incorporate multiple finishes, distinctly different lighting and yet establish the connectivity of an overall market space within the dining commons,” Cobb says.
“The goal for the interior design was to create a dining facility that could compete with the surrounding chain concepts,” says Steve Carlson, principal, Robert Rippe & Associates. “The interior architect came up with some great looks using a variety of materials, but our challenge was to detail the counters so these materials would be protected and remain looking great. For example, they used metal laminates and acrylics, and we had to protect edges from floor scrubbers and students’ backpacks and normal wear and tear. We have stainless steel bar stock on the bottom edge to protect it from floor-scrubbing machines. We also put in hidden reinforcement on the panels so they won’t break if someone bumps into them. We know it may be 25 years before they renovate again, and we had to build in discrete protection.”
Gordon also allows a lot of sunlight in and features impressive campus views. For instance, floor-to-ceiling windows offer views of the nearby Kohl Center arena and residence halls. An open, airy, sun-filled two-story space along the building’s north side spatially connects the second-floor common areas to the first floor. “This encourages a flow and connection to the soon-to-be adjacent green space,” Cobb says.
The facility also showcases regional materials. “Collectively, housing and dining administration and staff, students and all design team members collaborated and incorporated the legacy of the building’s namesake, Edgar ‘Pop’ Gordon,” Cobb says. “He was an influential music teacher who utilized the radio to teach music across Wisconsin, reaching remote country schools that might not otherwise have this educational opportunity.”
Other features of note, Cobb says, include sloped-wood ceilings found throughout the building. Textured stone and combed clay block walls provide a thread of natural materials from around the area throughout the building. Multiple fireplaces help establish Gordon as the heart of the campus, a family room of sorts. Light, materiality, texture, and color are used to define and distinguish the different spaces from one another.
When planning Gordon, the design team faced several challenges. “Gordon is a long, narrow space, and we were keeping the existing Gordon operational so the loading dock needed to be planned accordingly,” says the project’s foodservice design consultant, Terry Pellegrino, principal, Robert Rippe & Associates. “Because Gordon is surrounded by classrooms and residence halls, we had to do several drawings to configure the entrance and exits and decide where to locate warewashing, the c-store and coffee and ice cream stores so they would be convenient during different dayparts.”