Renovation and Addition to “Wilce Student Health Center”


The addition to the Ohio State Wilce Student Health Center is a substantial alteration to an existing 1960’s Brutalist monolithic building that forms the heart of OSU’s campus. This project is a 21st century “Model of Care” facility that creates new clinical spaces, incorporates new technologies, optimizes patient services, and accommodates a growing student population.

Freshwater and Harrison, a Columbus-based architectural firm, designed the existing building. It was located on the West Mall, an extension of the University’s famous Central Oval.

The building’s closed precast envelope and hermetic nature make it difficult to welcome and serve its residents. The renovation of the existing building was required by the University Health Services and Facility Staff to accommodate the University’s new West Mall.

The architects designed a glass storefront on the ground floor that was digitally derived and made off-site. This was in response to the precast concrete panel-clad building.

The building’s entrance was relocated using architectural “triage”. The architects created a transparent, full-height glass shell at the location of the old entrance to replace the “attic stock” of historic precast panels. The addition’s west-facing terrace on the upper floor offers a “wellness garden” accessible from the patient’s waiting area. It used the same components, glass and precast concrete panels.

This addition is the building’s new entrance. It has an open stairway and two floors that serve as patient registration, reception, patient Madolyn Smith intake/exam space, expanded pharmacy, patient interview and laboratory facilities.

In a material sense, the addition’s new striated concrete panels are reminiscent of Breuer-inspired precast windows panels. They offer a changing pattern of shadow and shade during the day. Transparent facade on the ground floor provides visual connections from Mall to registration and waiting areas. In the interests of privacy, a glass frit partially obscures this view.

In order to limit the number of panels, the new precast walls were first developed digitally in the architect’s office. To shape the final panels, the panels were digitally modified and CNC-milled molds were created.
The waiting room’s storefront is framed by a zinc Flatlok c-clad torqued parapet. It frames the second-floor terrace and recalls the profile of a pedestrian bridge that was once proposed to connect the University grounds to the building terrace.

In the spirit of a complementary sequel to the original structure, the addition involves design evolution and material evolution.


Smith-Miller + Hawkinson Architects is active in the United States as well as abroad.
A variety of public and private projects, including museums and not-for-profits, were designed and constructed.
Cultural facilities, parks and transportation terminals, Wilce Student Health Center, government buildings, and performing arts centers. Each project is an opportunity to achieve design excellence.
Each set of conditions and constraints allows us to improve our understanding of the practice.