Storrs, CT – Amenta Emma recently competed renovations for the Putnam Refectory at UConn Storrs.
Constructed in 1969, it is the primary dining facility for students living in the Hillside section of campus. While long overdue for an update to match the standards of other campus dining venues, the urgency to renovate and increase capacity at Putnam became critical with the planned construction of an adjacent 750-bed residence hall. UConn made a commitment to modernize the architectural interior and MEP systems in the facility and increase capacity at Putnam from 400 seats to 700 seats on a time frame that aligned with the August 2016 opening of the residence hall.
The project team included KBE Construction, general contractor; BVH Integrated Services, MEP, structural, civil engineering; Colburn & Guyette, food service consultant; Jaffee Holden, acoustic engineering; and RHD, graphic design.
Creating a connection between upper and lower levels was an important challenge for Amenta Emma designers. The dark lower level previously held offices, mail room, and lounge, but the space was needed to accommodate increased seating capacity. Designers desired the lower space to feel open and united with the upstairs space and for both spaces to feel equally appealing. The solution was an open stair and iconic sculptural element reinforcing the verticality of the space. At the lower level, the sculpture bottom forms a seating platform.
Raw finishes, such as polished concrete floors, exposed ceilings, whitewashed brick walls, and butcher block farm tables, complete the transformation. Old chandeliers were replaced with energy-efficient fixtures with different light levels to create appealing zones within the facility. A variety of seating environments allow diners to experience the building in different ways, either in groups or as individuals. With wireless access, endless coffee, and a meal plan that allows unlimited dining, Putnam Refectory becomes the quintessential “third place.”
UCONN has been recognized as one of the country’s best college dining programs, preparing an estimated 3,250 meals a day. Giant original watercolor graphics of fresh fruits and vegetables reference the university’s farm-to-table reputation. Two wall gardens feature fresh herbs used in food preparation, which also are available to students to add to dishes. These elements reinforce the school’s agricultural heritage and its farm-to-table philosophy. The old serving line has been replaced with special venues, including a gluten-free option and a circular juice bar, where students choose from natural ingredients for on-demand smoothies.
All of this was not lost on the University’s president and cabinet, who called the facility a “wow,” after a recent dining experience.