Student Union’s new interior pairs academics, food
By Cooper Nelson
GCU News Bureau
What do funny-man actor Kevin James, novelist Nathaniel Hawthorne and famous cartoon dad Homer Simpson have in common?
They all love food, and they’re talking about it in the Student Union at Grand Canyon University.
The updated Student Union, which functions as a student cafeteria, earlier this year received an aesthetic upgrade. Designers swapped out its outdated beach motif – which included an ocean mural and support pillars painted like palm trees – for a more modern, student-focused design.
The new look features three walls and an entrance ceiling decorated with images of three-dimensional, over-sized utensils, images of famous faces – like Hawthorne’s – and giant pull quotes about food. Twenty posters ranging from “Sesame Street’s” Cookie Monster (“C is for cookie, it’s good enough for me. Oh cookie cookie cookie starts with C.”) to actor Humphrey Bogart (“A hot dog at the ball park is better than steak at the Ritz.”) line the walls of the dining area around the 360 Grill stir-fry station.
The eatery underwent a major facelift last summer with the addition of the second-floor Starbucks lounge location and a two-story library on the top floors. As part of an additional redesign, the west side of the Student Union will include retail locations for Qdoba Mexican Grill, Mojo Bowl and possibly a by-the-slice retail pizza location later this year.
In February, food services staff approached GCU marketing media specialist Ashley Gallagher and graphic designer Matthew Gluskin with creating a design that reflected the new look and feel of the revamped Student Union.Gallagher and Gluskin worked with the University’s marketing department to shape the interior design of the other three levels.
“I’ve worked on projects that have dragged out for a year plus, but nothing as significant as this,” said Gluskin, one of eight graphic designers at GCU.
“When we were designing the graphics, we were working at a minimal size, like a quarter to half of the target size,” he said. “It was a challenge to know how it would end up along the way because you will have no idea how it will look when it’s up on the wall.”
Many of the new props protrude from the wall. A large metallic spoon juts out from the area near the dishwashing machine behind the dessert bar. Many pieces took months to design and create.
Gallagher and Gluskin spent almost two weeks deciding on the theme for the cafeteria before production started. Gallagher, an avid interior designer, said they wanted something that was academic but also food-focused to cater to traditional college-aged students.
“Food and academics combined seem really weird,” Gallagher said. “We weren’t sure if students would know who some of the people were but, from what I’ve heard from students, they seem to enjoy it.”
The design duo plans to add more instructional signs around the location, but said the major aesthetic is set for the next few years. Their next project may involve campus residences Papago Apartments and Ocotillo Hall, both under construction and slated to open this fall. Gluskin and Gallagher also designed the interior of the student rec center on the bottom floor of Chaparral Hall.
Student Phoebe Cipa, a self-proclaimed foodie who moved from England to attend GCU in 2010, thought a beach scene in ocean-challenged Arizona was a little odd. She said the new design is a better reflection of the current University culture.
“The old beach scene was just out of place and there was just no relevance to it at all,” said Cipa, 21, who is studying for her MBA.
“Now, all the quotes are about food and it just makes more sense.”
Reach Cooper Nelson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 602.639.7511.