Constructed in 1971 as a state-of-the-art student union, the building now known as McGauvran Center was formerly a part of the Lowell State College. Just a few years later in 1975, the college merged with Lowell Technological Institute to become the University of Lowell and later joined the University of Massachusetts system in 1991. This history of UMass Lowell is important, as it explains why there was a lack of brand presence on South Campus. The comprehensive renovation of McGauvran Center was a multifaceted effort to turn a concrete and brick building into a thriving hub of activity.
McGauvran Center is a hybrid-use complex – from multiple food service options to collaborative classrooms and meeting spaces – that is visited by nearly everyone on campus. It’s also a building that is open to the public with three access points – from the adjacent Wilder Street, from the campus quad, and from the second-floor sky bridge connected to the library. Working closely and collaboratively with the Office of University Relations, the strategy for wayfinding takes a simple and bold approach with major visibility at the key access points. As a retail destination that included unique dining concepts, the overall messaging needed to strike a balance between promotional and academic.
Incorporating the UMass Lowell brand into the building was critical to the project’s success. As a popular landmark on campus, it required a new name and a new identity that students and faculty could associate with. The name McGauvran Center was simplified from the previous Mary E. McGauvran Student Center and UMass Lowell blue was brought prominently onto the building exterior, building directories, and interior lobbies on each floor. Bold graphic gestures with oversized type accentuated the importance of directory information in this complex building with multiple programs. Blade signs on the exterior and medallions on the directories highlight the retail locations on the second floor. Food stations, each with their own unique food offerings, were named and branded with unique logotype and dimensional lettering inspired by the food concepts and ingredients.
The result is a building that decidedly belongs to UMass Lowell and has become the new heartbeat of South Campus.