Syracuse University is one step closer to selecting a world-class partner to conceptualize, design and construct the new National Veterans Resource Complex (NVRC).
by Wayne Westervelt with Elaine Wackerow
The NVRC Selection Committee, made up of faculty, staff, students and design professionals, recently reviewed the qualifications of 28 of the world’s foremost architecture firms. Syracuse Architecture Dean Michael A. Speaks and Associate Dean Julia Czerniak serve on the Committee. After careful consideration, the selection committee has chosen three finalists to advance to the final round of the competition. The finalists are: Adjaye Associates, SHoP and Snohetta. Notably, each of these firms is among the seven finalists currently vying for the opportunity to design the Obama Presidential Library in Chicago.
“I want to thank the members of the selection committee for their hard work and dedication to identifying the right design partner for this critically-important project,” says Chancellor Kent Syverud. “The NVRC is a physical testament to Syracuse University’s commitment to supporting veterans and their families. I am confident the selection committee will find the right partner to bring this unique vision to life.”
Representatives from the selected firms will travel to Syracuse University in the coming weeks to view the site and to speak with members of the campus community about the history, goals, vision and timeline for the new facility. A team of students from Syracuse Architecture will accompany firm members on their respective campus visits to provide student perspective. The firms will return to campus in April to present their final proposals to the selection committee. The winning firm will be announced in May.
Directing the design competition on behalf of Syracuse University is Martha Thorne, dean of the IE School of Architecture and Design in Madrid. Thorne also serves as the executive director of the Pritzker Prize—the architecture award equivalent to the Nobel Prize.
“The three finalist firms and their teams are outstanding,” says Thorne. “I have no doubt they will propose ideas that go beyond traditional academic buildings and make the NVRC a pioneering facility that will contribute to the University, as well as the broader community.”
The NVRC is one of the signature initiatives of the Central New York (CNY) Regional Economic Development Council’s winning proposal titled “Central New York: Rising from the Ground Up.” In December, the CNY region was one of three selected to receive $500 million as part of Gov. Cuomo’s $1.5 billion Upstate Revitalization Initiative.
A first-of-its-kind, multi-use facility, the NVRC will serve as the enduring home of the University’s Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF), which has served more than 48,000 veterans and military families. The NVRC will offer state-of-the-art vocational and educational programs designed to advance the economic success of the region’s and the nation’s veterans and military families.
“Syracuse University’s past and present connection to the veteran- and military-connected community is not only central to our identity, but it is also one of the institution’s most valuable and differentiating resources,” says J. Michael Haynie, vice chancellor and executive director of the IVMF. “In this regard, the NVRC will come to define another chapter in Syracuse University’s long-running story of commitment and service to those men and women who have shouldered the burden of the nation’s defense.”
Tentatively planned for the western portion of the Waverly block on the Syracuse University campus, the NVRC will house the Syracuse University and Regional Student Veteran Resource Center; the Army Reserve Officer Training Corps; the Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps; U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs “Vet-Success on Campus”; the National Center of Excellence for Veteran Business Ownership; Veteran Business Outreach Center and Accelerator; and Syracuse University’s Office of Veteran and Military Affairs.
The NVRC will include classroom spaces to accommodate local and national veteran-focused programming, along with a conference center and roughly 1,000-seat auditorium suitable to host community activities, lectures and national convening events and conferences. The facility is also expected to include gallery space exhibiting the University’s storied legacy of serving America’s veterans. Designed as a LEED-certified facility and constructed in accordance with Universal Design practices, the NVRC will be an inclusive facility that welcomes and accommodates veterans and visitors with disabilities.
Representatives from all three firms vying for the opportunity to design the NVRC say they are thrilled to be in the consideration set.
“Syracuse University’s ambition to make the NVRC a combined educational and community center, as well as a national hub for America’s 22.8 million veterans and their families, resonates deeply with my own commitment to architecture that empowers communities and has global resonance,” says David Adjaye, principal at Adjaye Associates. “This is also an opportunity to enhance the context and future vision for the surrounding area—setting the highest precedent for subsequent development.”
“The NVRC at Syracuse University will occupy a special place in the life of the city, the campus and the community of veterans nationwide it is intended to serve,” says SHoP principal William Sharples. “Everyone at SHoP is honored to be a part of this process.”
Craig Dykers, founding partner of Snøhetta, says: “The poet RJ Heller once wrote, ‘In the aftermath we are because they were.’ Courage is contagious, and being a part of this process at Syracuse to benefit our veterans in a groundbreaking new facility is exciting and humbling for all of us at Snøhetta. This is more than a handshake: we are doing something revolutionary for those whose origins are from the same stuff.”
As part of the design competition process, the selected firms will collaborate with the School of Architecture to present lectures—about their firms and their past work—to the campus community. These lectures are tentatively scheduled to take place in March, and will be open to the general public.
For more information on the project, to submit ideas, and to ask questions, visit http://NVRC.syr.edu. Ongoing updates regarding the project’s progress will be posted there regularly throughout the design competition proce