With only 50% of all high school graduates in a seven county region furthering their education beyond high school, Missouri State University-West Plains serves one of the poorest congressional districts in America as an open enrollment institution. Founded in 1963, the ad hoc campus has deep connections to the rural community, but lacks identity. The design challenge was to initiate the development of a new, more cohesive campus environment. One that respects the heritage of the rural southeast Missouri region while providing state of the art facilities for students that wish to “stay home, but go far.”
Following a collaborative campus planning process that involved faculty, staff, students and neighbors, a site was selected for Hass-Hoover Hall that would reinforce the significance of an existing, but lonely, clock tower while working in concert with the Gohn-Wood House to establish the edges of a new campus quadrangle. The facility will combine the academic honors program with programs for students’ academic assistance. Acting as both a campus and community facility, two community rooms located on the second floor open to exterior balconies with views of the clock tower.
The design solution works to make connections. The L-shaped plan defines an entry court to the north greeting visitors to the campus through a landscaped approach. The elevated community room allows pedestrian passage underneath to the interior of the quadrangle. Large expanses of glass and elevated decks connect the community to the campus, while a monumental stair and ramp connect the building to its site providing places for students and faculty to engage one another in thoughtful conversation. Local materials, including buff and grey stone, are reinterpreted from their rural roots and expressed in a more refined manner suggesting the refinement to life that education brings.