From Watches to World-Class Academics

by Tom Seymour
Dewberry

Bradley University transforms historic Westlake Hall.

An iconic campus building, specialized classrooms and work areas, state-of-the-art equipment, modern systems, abundant natural light…when Bradley University’s Westlake Hall opened in 1897, it quickly became recognized as one of the nation’s most innovative and well-appointed academic facilities. Today, after a comprehensive restoration and expansion, all of those attributes hold true once again.

Once known for accommodating the university’s renowned horology (watchmaking) school, Westlake Hall is today the cutting-edge home of Bradley’s College of Education & Health Sciences, the new Center for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) Education, the Center for Collaborative Brain Research, and the Institute for Principled Leadership in Public Service. The modernization involved a painstaking renovation of the original structure, including restoration of the historic clock tower, barrel ceilings, windows and millwork. At 96,000 square feet, the building is now six times its original size, with a dramatic center atrium, classrooms, labs, resource areas, an auditorium, offices, and conference facilities.

A Collaborative Environment

For Dr. Joan Sattler, dean of the College of Education & Health Sciences, the new atrium is a particular highlight. “The atrium is not only a wonderful, serene space in which to read and study, it also contributes to a more collaborative environment for the students.

On every floor, there are open seating areas, alcoves and student lounges for collaboration, interaction and learning. There is a variety of furniture, presentation monitors, display areas and shelves for working on laptops. We wanted the learning to flow from within the classroom throughout the building, with students gathering and working together in these vibrant, comfortable spaces.”

Dr. Sattler, who joined Bradley University in 1977, was involved throughout the planning process for the building project. Along with several Bradley administrators and faculty members, she worked closely with the design team from Dewberry, the architect for the project. “We had many objectives for the building,” she notes. “We were trying to get by with a lot of improvised spaces in the past. Now we have classrooms, labs and resource areas that meet the specific needs of our programs. We also have the open, inviting space for collaboration. That was important to us as we wanted the building to support cross-disciplinary study, problem-solving and engaged learning. Our mission is to prepare future leaders.”

Resource-Driven Spaces

Throughout Westlake Hall, classrooms are furnished with large tables, rather than rows of desks, for interactive learning and projectbased teamwork. A large professional development center, which can be divided into two group spaces, supports a variety of events. The building features labs for math, science education, language arts/reading, social studies education and assistive technology—all focused on state-of-the-art teacher education. The labs are designed with much-needed storage areas, and some have observation areas to view interaction with students. A spacious teaching resource center with large tables provides an efficient work area to prepare curriculum materials.

The building also houses a new counseling research and training clinic, designed for educational programs for school and mental health counseling. The clinic has two large group rooms and three smaller rooms, all with observation booths and advanced instructional technology.

The renovation also made the most of existing lower-level space within the historic structure. Designed specifically for the university’s part-time faculty members and graduate assistants, the floor provides workstations, storage areas and conference rooms. “It’s a very efficient use of the space,” says Dr. Sattler. “We have many faculty members and graduate assistants who don’t require an office, but do need a place on a part-time basis in which to work and meet with students.”

Honoring the Past

While Dr. Sattler praises the modern classroom and lab environment that Westlake Hall now offers, she counts many of its historic elements among her favorites. “It’s a beautiful building,” she says. “In the deans’ area, there are now beveled, barreled ceilings that had been covered up for years. There are gorgeous Gothic-style windows, beautiful woodwork, arches and old wooden doors with leaded glass. Many features were restored, or replaced in such a way that they look just like the old details. The limestone on the exterior of the addition matches the original stone so closely, you almost can’t tell the difference.

Although the architectural team was careful to preserve or  judiciously replace Westlake Hall’s historic elements, including the copper dome on the clock tower, they also met challenging standards for energy efficiency, sustainability and building performance. “This will be the first building on campus to meet LEED Gold standards,” Dr. Sattler points out. Sustainable measures include low-flow plumbing fixtures and efficient window systems.

“It’s just a fabulous building, inside and out,” says Dr. Sattler. “But more important, we’re able to do so much more with our programs here than we were able to do before.” iBi

Tom Seymour is a senior principal in the Peoria office of Dewberry, which has worked with Bradley University for more than 30 years.

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