Founded in 1963 as a two-year, open admission, separately accredited campus within the Missouri State University system, MSU-West Plains serves one of the poorest congressional districts in the nation. Many of its students are first generation college educated from the surrounding rural areas of southern Missouri, and this campus provides a gateway to four-year bachelors degree programs and beyond. Although the institution has been successful at supporting students’ educational needs, the somewhat ad hoc campus lacked a central gathering place for its predominantly commuter students. By salvaging a ramshackle post office, the campus now provides desperately needed study areas and social spaces for students, enriching their college experience and strengthening relationships in the form of Hass-Darr Hall.
At 18,000 sf, the facility combines admissions offices, honors classes, tutoring classes, student veterans, college bookstore, and student center all under one roof, prominently located along Missouri Avenue, the primary street through campus. With a budget of only $260/SF, the architecture is straightforward; utilizing corrugated metal wall panels to achieve a shimmering skin inspired by the Grizzlies mascot. South facing glass is protected by a broad overhang extending the student union to the exterior and pointing toward the academic core of campus. As costs for higher education continue to rise, Hass-Darr Hall exhibits institutional pride with an economy of means in an effort to remove barriers to education and improve quality of life.