reVIVE: Garst and Blair Shannon Dining Centers

Context is never more important than when we work with existing buildings. In our attempt to breathe new life into structures that have already had a life, we are encouraged to consider what the existing building is telling us, and to engage in a dialogue with it. In the best projects, such as these two at Missouri State University, both the existing building and the new intervention are made better as a result of this dialogue. BNIM’s recently completed additions and renovations to two university dining centers illustrate the potential for thoughtful design to revive older buildings and allow them to serve the needs of a new generation.

BNIM has a decade-long relationship with Missouri State University in Springfield, MO, developed over many years and many small projects. By the time the University found the need to renovate and expand their two main dining centers on campus in 2011, BNIM had established the ability to provide maximum design to elevate existing structures on the campus in an efficient and timely manner.

The impetus for both projects was driven by a contract with a new dining services provider and a new food service concept that emphasized interactive food preparation and healthful options, elevating the college dining experience beyond its shopworn stereotype. The need for additional seating capacity was apparent at both dining centers, and additions to the existing buildings were planned to meet this need.

As with many universities, Missouri State makes the most of its summers, when the campus becomes a hive of building activity while the students are away. And for good reason: all projects, except for the largest, must be complete by the time the students return in the fall. This challenges the design and construction teams to get it right the first time; there is little margin for error. After an intense, focused design effort, the construction of these projects took place in the summer of 2012. All members of the project team intensely collaborated and, as a result of these efforts, the projects were completed just in time. The Garst and Blair Shannon Dining Center projects have successfully modernized and revived MSU’s campus dining experience, and the additions help make what was once old new again. BNIM’s design solutions for each center were quite different, responding as we were to the unique conditions of the sites and the buildings.


Inside Garst Dining Center the finishes are bright, yet spare and minimal.

Garst Dining Center is located at the northern border of campus. The 23,000 sf facility was constructed in 1990 to serve two contiguous residence hall towers. In 2011, the interior of the dining facility was dated, low, and dim – certainly in great need of a refresh. Furthermore, the cost of all-new food service equipment as dictated by the dining program was a dominant part of the project budget, leaving a slim figure for architectural upgrades.


The new food service concept elevates the college dining experience.

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Garst Dining Center before the renovations. Photo courtesy Missouri State Dining Services.

BNIM’s approach to these challenges was, as a result, necessarily lean. Old finishes were stripped away, revealing the structure and allowing the total volume of space to be experienced. Polished concrete and open web joists replaced carpet, tile, and dropped ceilings as the language of the space.

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The Dining Room at Garst Dining Center features a large expanse of glass facing eastward, making the space feel clean and brightly lit. The 4,000 sf addition follows the same principles – a simple, spare, unadorned volume that expresses the honesty of the structure. The addition is shaped and fenestrated to address the particulars of its site as well. A large expanse of glass faces eastward, toward an open green space, creating another “face” of the building. The glass wall is fronted by a high canopy that formalizes and shelters an existing, oft-used pathway to one of the residence halls. The south side of the addition folds back to create a small outdoor multipurpose gathering space. And the rainscreen cladding on the north and south bookend walls shields the interior from a large parking lot on one side and a blank residence hall wall on the other.


The primary entrance is lively and prominent.


A high canopy at right shelters an oft-used pathway to one of the residence halls. The south side of the addition folds back to create a small outdoor multipurpose gathering space.

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The Exterior of Garst Dining Hall enhances without overwhelming. Viewed from the exterior, the addition is complementary to the existing dining center while maintaining a distinct identity of its own. It does what an addition should do – enhance without overwhelming.


Blair Shannon Dining Center can also be closed off and used in the evenings as a separate venue. View of the exterior.

The addition and renovation to Blair Shannon Dining Center is as much about activating the site as it is about serving the center’s dining needs. Blair Shannon is located in the informal heart of MSU’s campus. A new 100,000 sf recreation center sits directly west of the building, and bisecting the two is a new pedestrian axis linking the campus north to south. An old dining center addition occupied what, in 2011, was fast becoming prime real estate on the campus and it needed to be replaced.


A new pedestrian axis linking the campus from north to south sits directly in front of the new Blair Shannon Dining Center.

Functionally, the replacement addition varies diurnally in its use By day, it acts as additional seating for the larger dining center. By night, it can be closed off from the center and operated as a standalone after-hours destination. As such, the space needed to feel contiguous with the rest of the center but separate enough to command a presence. Again, as with Garst, a simple trabeated language of steel posts and beams was chosen for its ability to enclose the maximum amount of volume in the most economical way, and this structure was left unadorned and open to view. A large expanse of glass looks outward toward a new plaza and the recreation center beyond. The building itself is rotated off axis from the surrounding buildings. This is a site gesture, intended to use the building as a means of defining the public plaza. The scale and materiality of the exterior interprets the architecture of the existing building without plagiarizing it.


The expanse of glass looks outward toward the pedestrian link and plaza and the recreation center beyond.


Inside Blair Shannon Dining Center, sleek and minimal materials provide an elegant dining experience.


For more about reVIVE, BNIM's adaptive reuse and renovation projects that give new life to old structures, view the book. - See more at: