Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, commonly known as IUPUI, is similar to many college campuses in urban settings in that the transition from city to campus is easy to miss if you’re not paying attention. Home to more than 30,000 students, the campus sits in the heart of downtown Indianapolis, just steps away from the Indiana Statehouse and Lucas Oil Stadium.
Even though the campus is more than 500 acres, it can be tough for visitors to tell when they’ve arrived since there are several downtown buildings surrounding the campus. To help solve this problem, the university wanted to create two new entryways to campus, and precast concrete is playing a central role.
Celebrating its 50th anniversary, IUPUI set out to create a statement piece to serve as the main gateway as well as a similar but smaller piece. The goal for the pieces is to welcome visitors and students to campus while also relating to other academic buildings to provide a gateway to the campus.
“We went through some different designs, looked at some architectural designs on campus to really mimic what was unique about IUPUI and what the most prominent architectural elements on campus are that should be implemented into a strong gateway,” said Mark Ramsey, IUPUI’s director of landscape architecture. “As you look at the gateway, you’ll see elements of the Campus Center, the library, the Natatorium and some of those prominent buildings.”
The final design includes limestone, stainless steel and other materials, but precast concrete provides the foundation and “blade” element that sets the edge of campus. The precast piece creates the true signage element of the gateway and serves as the piece’s perch.
“Choosing precast was a matter of balancing budget and performance,” Ramsey said. “We needed something durable with a consistent finish that would hold up. Durability and visual consistency were pretty important to us.”
Drew Braley of design firm Browning Day Mullins Dierdorf noted several benefits of using precast as well.
“The most critical items were the desire for this to have a smooth, consistent, architectural color and finish,” said Braley, landscape architecture project manager at Browning Day. “Additionally, the geometries – radiused form and sloped profiles – could have presented some additional challenges for cast-in-place construction.”
Indianapolis-area-based Precast Solutions Inc., which has partnered with Browning Day on other projects, supplied the precast for the gateway.
“We have a good partnership with them (Browning Day), and they reached out to us early on to see how this could be done,” President John Davis said. “That cooperation together provides the best grounds for a successful project.”
Davis said the company is proud to be a part of the project.
“As a manufacturer in the city and state, we love to partner with municipalities and especially colleges around us as well,” he said. “We’ve worked with IU, Purdue, Indiana State and some of the bigger companies like Eli Lilly as well.
“Being involved with a prominent project like this, there’s a lot of pride for us.”
The gateway, which should be finished by the time students return for the spring semester, will be a symbol not just for the students, but for everyone who comes to campus or even passes by it.
“IUPUI is creating more of these identity pieces that not only the students can connect with but also the community as a whole and visitors,” Ramsey said. “Those types of pieces really create a ‘You are here’ beacon so that you know when you are on the university campus, and that’s what this structure will do for us.”