Mori Hosseini Student Union - Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University

National Award - $15 million to $75 million

It’s like steel literally flies away with the award because it's a bird-like structure. It looks like it’s getting ready to take off! —2020 IDEAS2 Judge Cynthia Duncan

The new Mori Hosseini Student Union at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University is a soaring example of symbolic design.

Inspired by the gracefulness of birds in flight, the building is an expression of the school’s mission to teach the science, practice, and business of aviation and aerospace. Positioned to serve as the front door to Embry-Riddle’s Daytona Beach, Fla., campus, the facility’s gently soaring form creates an iconic identity for the university and embodies its students' values of fearlessness, adventure, and discovery.

Key to embodying the ethos of Embry-Riddle in architectural form is the exuberant and creative structural steel expression that illustrates movement, flight, and aerodynamics both externally and internally. The curving bowed roof on top of the structure not only provides solar shading from the harsh Florida sun, but also evokes sinuous avian forms. The vertical, exposed struts convey a feather-like quality and are structural members that tie down the curved roof form from wind uplift, particularly in case of hurricanes. The massive exposed double arches that wrap the exterior support the vertical roof struts at the shading overhang and signify the main entrances to the building. Internally, an exposed 200-ft curving steel arch bisects the middle of the plan and supports a glass roof above, allowing students to look skyward while inside. The building’s architecturally exposed structural steel (AESS) is an integral design element and helps create an exterior and interior aesthetic that feels finished and dynamic.

Programmatically, the 177,000-sq.-ft student union building is an aeronautical athenaeum combining social learning spaces, an events center, club offices, student affairs offices, career services, dining, and the university library. A soaring triple-height commons area integrates the collaborative social and learning environments. The lounges, dining venues, group study rooms, club and organization offices, career services, student affairs, and library wrap the commons and lead to a multistory amphitheater—a place to see and be seen—that overlooks the commons and building entry. The events center, which can accommodate up to 900 people, is housed on the first floor and employs long-span trusses to create a clear and column-free uninterrupted floor space. The top floor houses the university library, which is set beneath the dynamic 200-ft arching skylight that opens to the sky. A roof terrace on the second floor allows students to gaze upon the adjacent runway of Daytona International Airport and beyond to rocket launches from the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral.

Crucial to creating such a structurally expressive building was the architect’s and structural engineer’s commitment to work hand-in-glove during the design phase to properly detail the facility’s expressive steel forms and connections. Working in both Rhino and Tekla systems, the design team created a 3D virtual model of the project that was then turned over to the steel fabricators and erector to bring the idea to reality. During construction, the design team periodically visited the multiple fabricators involved in the project to answer questions and observe the progress of the steel before its arrival on-site.

In addition to solar shading, the great curving roof also collects rainwater and siphons it to below-grade cisterns for storage and campus irrigation, just one of a number of sustainable approaches that make the student union a high-performing and resource-efficient building. Additionally, the lighting design strategy reinforces and highlights the architectural forms and spaces that are inspired by flight. The lighting further enhances the airiness of the structure and creates a series of identifiable program zones within the larger open flexible spaces to provide activity rooms without walls. In reinforcing the organic architectural expression of the spaces, the overall effect creates a glowing beacon at the campus entry.

Steel fabricators:

  • Steel, LLC, Scottdale, Ga. *AISC Member* *AISC Certified*
  • Greiner Industries, Inc., Mount Joy, Pa. *AISC Member* *AISC Certified*
  • Fabco Metal Products LLC, Daytona Beach, Fla. *AISC Member* *AISC Certified*
  • Steel bender/roller: Greiner Industries, Inc., Mount Joy, Pa. *AISC Member* *AISC Certified*

Steel erector: Superior Rigging & Erecting Company, Atlanta *AISC Member* *AISC Certified*
Connection designer and erection engineer: McGill Engineering, Tampa, Fla.
Architect: ikon.5 architects, New York
Structural engineer: Thornton Tomasetti, Newark, N.J. *AISC Member*
General contractor: Barton Malow Company, Orlando, Fla. *AISC Member*
Project ownership: Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Daytona Beach, Fla.

  • Location: Daytona Beach, FL
  • Award Winner Year: 2020
  • Year Completed: 2018
  • Submitting Firm: ikon.5 architects
  • Photo Credit: 1, 2, 3, 4 - Brad Feinknopf; 5 - ikon.5 architects