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Design

University of Connecticut, McMahon Hall

Renovation brings food preparation front and center.

With restaurant-style display kitchens offering a variety of cuisines at multiple serving stations, the old 1960’s, two-line cafeteria layout at the University of Connecticut McMahon Dining Hall is now a distant memory. Inspired by a growing and diverse student body, as well as the hall’s proximity to the university’s international offices, the 19,000-square foot renovation and addition makes food preparation the star and provides a dining space ideal for more than just eating. The redesign takes cues from the surrounding landscape while offering a modern and versatile space that is now a campus hotspot. Student reaction has been positive, says Dennis Pierce, dining services director. “They’ve even said our pizza is better than the local pizza chain!” Among other initiatives, incorporation of Energy Star equipment, high-efficiency hoods and high-performance glass qualified McMahon Hall as the first LEED Gold Commercial Interior on a UConn campus.

Instead of creating cuisine-specific areas, the various kitchens are organized by type of cooking, allowing for greater flexibility now and in the future as cuisines and tastes change.

Photo Credit: Anton Grassl of Esto

 

The renovation also included a more elegant entry into the common lobby of the building, allowing access to the dining hall and adjacent residence halls.

Photo Credit: Paul Burke

 

“We changed the service model,” Pierce explains. “Food is now served on a plate rather than self-service. And we use smaller plates, giving an upscale feel while reducing food waste.”

Photo Credit: Anton Grassl of Esto

 

Seeing the ingredients and preparation elevates the quality of the food, so bringing preparation to the front was fundamental, explains Jeff Leon, project manager for design firm Prellwitz Chilinski Associates.

Photo Credit: Anton Grassl of Esto

 

The redesigned space now offers 500 seats along with seating alternatives that encourage students to gather, study, dine or relax.

Photo Credit: Anton Grassl of Esto

 

A new glass curtain wall overlooks campus foliage offering the airy feel of a “pavilion in the woods,” according to Prellwitz Chilinski Associates.

Photo Credit: Anton Grassl of Esto

Colorful furnishings and a variety of lighting add interest to the space, creating an ambiance and a social place where students want to be.

Photo Credit: Anton Grassl of Esto 

High ceilings and exposed mechanical systems surround warm, natural and locally sourced materials, while large expanses of non-reflective glass add light and space.

Photo Credit: Anton Grassl of Esto 

 

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