Compton Union Building
The Compton Union Building, more commonly known as the CUB, is Washington State University’s student union building. Consisting of six floors, the CUB serves as the center for student activities across campus and offers a variety of dining, shopping, entertainment, meeting, and lounging options. It is located in the center of Washington State University in Pullman, Washington. Designed by John W. Maloney in modern functional style, the Cub first opened its doors on September 15, 1952 after decades of rallying, proposals, and fundraising by the students of Washington State University. It was later extensively remodeled in 1967 with Maloney once again being the chief architect.. From 2006-2008, the CUB was completely remodeled to meet modern needs and demands with Pfeiffer Partners and Integrus Architecture in charge of the design. Even though the CUB’s interior bears little resemblance to its prior design, its purpose is still to serve the students as a place of unification and support.
Before the Compton Union Building was in place, students would gather in the TUB (the Temporary Union Building. The TUB was located where Terrell Library is today, and it was an expansion of the CRIB, the first building on WSU campus and where the first class was instructed. It received multiple renovations throughout the decades and was used as a gymnasium, bookstore, and recreation center. Throughout its use, lobbying for an official student union building was made and several attempts to raise money for it, including selling bricks to people, were made.
With the influx of WWII veterans in then Washington State College, enrollment rose quickly: 4,300 students in 1939 increased to 6,700 by 1947, many of which were married and seeking a place to mingle with other students. The TUB became the popular hangout spot where there were dancing, dining, and game options. However, by 1949, the enrollment increased to 7,000 students and the TUB no longer had the capacity for the Washington State College student population.
In 1946, then President Wilson M. Compton included constructing a student union building in his ten year plan as president. Other important figures supporting the student movement for a union building was then Pullman, WA mayor Merrill R. Ebner who felt that WSU could offer several services to students in the union building that the city of Pullman could not. In November of 1947, Wilson Compton appointed a student union building committee to ensure that all plans were adequate in terms of future occupations in the building. President Compton took many steps necessary to make sure that the building would withstand the test of time and and could meet the needs of future students. In September of 1949, the final plans of the student union building were approved and construction started soon after.
1952 CUB Opening
Shortly after September of 1949, the high tank was located west of the future site of the CUB was removed while site preparation and removal of an unused water reservoir were already underway. In July of 1950, the foundation of the CUB was laid, concrete for a retaining wall was poured, and excavation for the actual construction was done. In August of 1950, concrete for the main footings of the south side was finished and back-filling around them began. Additionally, excavation for the entire building was substantially complete during that time of August. After two years of construction and twenty-seven years of planning, the Compton Union Building officially opened on September 15, 1952 for a total cost of $4 million, financed from money saved over the years and the issuance of bonds. The building was officially dedicated on October 25, 1952 at the Homecoming football game against Oregon State college. There, retired president Wilson Compton returned for the official dedication. It was on Homecoming that the building was officially dedicated as the Wilson Compton Union Building for years of planning and support from him
The CUB was originally slated to have seven floors, but finished construction with six floors instead. The top floor was dedicated to hotel rooms and dormitories for visiting sports teams. The third floor housed meeting rooms, ASSCW, class officers, and student activities. The second floor consisted of the main ballroom and the junior ballroom along with several meeting rooms. The main floor was where the majority of student services were including a lounge, a reading room, a barber shop, post office, cafeteria, fountain, a kitchen, a dining room, and a meeting room. The recreation center was on the ground floor which included 5 billiard balls tables, 10 bowling lanes, ping pong tables, and rooms for outdoor clubs. On the first floor below the ground floor, headquarters of student publications were centered.
1967-1969 CUB Remodel and Opening
After almost two decades of being opened, the Compton Union Building was at capacity and needed to be renovated due to the growth of the WSU Pullman campus population. The original architect John. W. Maloney took charge of the design once again. In April of 1967, the Compton Union Building was closed for construction. By July 1, 1967, all occupants of the Compton Union Building were emptied and moved to various locations across campus. Throughout the construction, the Commons served as the Temporary Union Building with many services located inside of it. The most widely known and used service was the fountain area which was moved from the CUB into the Commons temporarily. By 1967, a quarter of the remodel and expansion had been completed.
After a year and a half of being closed, the Compton Union Building once again reopened in January of 1969 and was fully functional by June of 1969. The total cost was $4 million and covered the new addition to the CUB, furnishings and remodel. It was financed through bonds retired by student fees and was at no cost to taxpayers. The total capacity of the CUB for the 1967-69 remodel was for between 15,000 and 20,000 students, almost double the capacity before the remodel.
The CUB was completely remodeled to accommodate its growing student population. Dining rooms and cafeterias were expanded by twice the size they were before. The second floor ballroom increased its capacity for dances from 1000 couples to 1500 couples by expanding onto the outside balcony. The basement floor expanded its size to accommodate meeting rooms, a crafts area, and student publications such as its newspaper and annual yearbook. The number of billiard ball tables increased to 21 and four new ping pong tables were brought into the area. A two-room listening area was also added which played popular and classical music along with colored televisions placed in lounges. The top floor was also renovated to have only thirty hotel rooms available. The most notable feature was its auditorium where students could watch films.
2006-2008 CUB Remodeling and Opening
After almost fifty years of use and remodels throughout the decades, the Compton Union Building was showing signs of aging. As a result, many services in the CUB made slight renovations such as new paint on the walls, wallpaper, improved lighting, and different interior furniture. However, the CUB was unable to manage its ventilation system throughout the years. Only a few of the spaces, such as the ballroom, were ventilated, but most were not, resulting in many of the smaller spaces such as meeting rooms to be hot during the warmer months. Eventually, people started to propose a complete remodel of the CUB. One of the more prominent people proposing this was then CUB Director Tim McCarty in the 1990s.
In March of 2005, more than 52 percent of student voters approved a referendum for an $86 million renovation of the CUB. On May 7, 2006, the Compton Union Building started its temporary closure for the remodel, and on May 15, 2006, the remodel of the Compton Union Building started. The architects in charge were Integrus Architecture and Pfeiffer Partners and the general contractor and construction manager was Hoffman Construction Co. During the renovation, most of the existing building interior was demolished and reconfigured, but the building shell and core structure was retained. On September 5, 2008, the Compton Union Building had its grand opening, open for the use of the public at a cost of $86 million which was planned to be financed with a student approved $120 per semester fee, lasting for 30 years. Some of the groundbreaking features of the CUB at the time was the use of flatscreen tv’s, wireless internet, a THX certified auditorium, and a North stair tower which provided a connection from the northside part of campus to the center part of campus. The biggest feature of the remodeled cub was central air conditioning to the entire building. Additionally, the Bookie, WSU’s bookstore, relocated into CUB from its previous location on the west side of campus and replaced the bowling alley housed on the ground floor.
The top floor hotel was replaced with offices for several student groups which became necessary as Washington State University became increasingly diversified. Washington State College students in the 1930s were a homogenous student population, generally white and middle class. Whereas recently in 2019, one third of the WSU Pullman student body identified as multicultural. Ultimately, the renovation of the CUB led to a 235,000 total square footage.
The original 1952 and 1967 CUB were designed by John W. Maloney. Maloney is infamous for his work in the Pacific Northwest. His later styles reflected the architecture of the time: modern function style. The CUB is a prime example of that type of architecture style. Much of the design of modern function included rejecting ornament and embracing minimalism all the while keeping its volume. Many of the materials used in the construction were reinforced concrete, steel frames, and curtain walls.
The CUB was designed to be practical, but also having the ability to be remembered. Its flush, one-color brick exterior is remembered by all who enter along with its extruding second floor. There is no corner or cornice trim which represents modern architecture well since unneeded ornaments are not in place. Its simple square shape was designed to keep form over function in place to not overspend on construction. Colors were also not used widely, opting for a more neutral palette which can be seen in its terra-cotta colors along with natural cement color with sandstone. The CUB’s color palette not only falls in line with the style of the time, but also blends in with surrounding campus buildings. In the 2000s CUB remodel, much of the interior design changed for a more contemporary architecture style. However, to keep its history, designers decided to keep the outer exterior of the CUB its modern architecture style in place. One of the concepts of contemporary architecture is its expressiveness for form and design. The aesthetic sense is thought of beforehand. Rather than keep its neutral color palette, the CUB was redesigned to have a more colorful sense to it, including colors such as green, grey, and red. Multiple glass windows acting as walls allow the natural lighting and the Palouse scenery into the building. It is designed to invite people in for a “warm” experience
The materials between the two architectural styles are not very different; concrete is still a primary material and it can be seen both outside and inside of the CUB. However, contemporary buildings have a sense for sustainability. Contemporary architecture recommends using sustainable building materials and technology throughout the building along with efficiency in the resources it uses. Because WSU is invested in sustainability, it allowed for the CUB to earn Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification. The biggest change to the CUB was spacing. Before the 2006 remodel, it had the concept of open interior plan; however, mid-century design included features such as low ceilings and small hallways even though many of the common spaces were indeed open in space. The CUB expanded on this into contemporary architecture and ensured that each floor flowed into each room effectively for a more contemporary design and appeal.
In the media
- "Washington State University Buildings – History | Manuscripts, Archives & Special Collections | Washington State University".
- Stimson, William. Going to Washington State : a Century of Student Life. Pullman, Wash.: Washington State University Press, 1989.
- Washington State University. “Background Information about WSU’s Compton Union Building for WSU President V. Lane Rawlins”. Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections, Washington State University Libraries. Box 8. From WSU News Subject Files (Archives 333, Box 8, Folder 60), Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections, Washington State University Libraries, Pullman, WA.
- Maynard Hicks, November 7, 1947. “Union Committee to Cooperate with Compton’s ‘Ten-Year Plan.’” College News Bureau, Washington State College. From WSU News Subject Files (Archives 333, Box 8, Folder 60), Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections, Washington State University Libraries, Pullman, WA.
- Washington State College, September 1949. “The final plans of the Washington State college union have been given the go-ahead signal.” From WSU News Subject Files (Archives 333, Box 8, Folder 60), Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections, Washington State University Libraries, Pullman, WA.
- Washington State College, August 25, 1950. “College Union Building Foundation Laid at WSC.” From WSU News Subject Files (Archives 333, Box 8, Folder 60), Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections, Washington State University Libraries, Pullman, WA.
- Washington State College, August 25, 1950. “Much Concrete Poured for WSC College Union.” From WSU News Subject Files (Archives 333, Box 8, Folder 60), Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections, Washington State University Libraries, Pullman, WA.
- Maynard Hicks, June 13, 1952. “Oct. 25 Date Dedication of WSC’s Union Building Before Homecoming Throng." College News Bureau, Washington State College. From WSU News Subject Files (Archives 333, Box 8, Folder 60), Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections, Washington State University Libraries, Pullman, WA.
- Frank Neffke, September 10, 1952. “Wilson Compton Union Pre-Opening Bulletin.” CUB Leaflet, Washington State College. From WSU News Subject Files (Archives 333, Box 9, Folder 5), Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections, Washington State University Libraries, Pullman, WA.
- Blosser, Doug. “CUB Activities in Full Swing after Remodeling Confusion .” WSU Daily Evergreen. March 12, 1969, LXXV volume, number. 60. From WSU News Subject Files (Archives 333, Box 9, Folder 7), Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections, Washington State University Libraries, Pullman, WA.
- Matthew Carey, January 8, 1969. News Service, Washington State University. From WSU News Subject Files (Archives 333, Box 9, Folder 7), Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections, Washington State University Libraries, Pullman, WA.
- “Home away from home: CUB more than just a student center.” Moscow-Pullman Daily News. August 24 and 25, 1996. From WSU News Subject Files (Archives 333, Box 9, Folder 7), Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections, Washington State University Libraries, Pullman, WA.
- Tim Marsh, April 12, 2006. “Event Will Celebrate Start of Compton Union Building Two-Year Renovation.” From WSU News Subject Files (Archives 333, Box 8, Folder 60), Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections, Washington State University Libraries, Pullman, WA.
- Washington State University. “Washington State University Quick Facts” 2018. Accessed April 25, 2020. https://wsu.edu/about/facts/.
- Joel Mills, August 12, 2008. “Open Spaces Define New CUB.” Lewiston Morning Tribune. From WSU News Subject Files (Archives 333, Box 8, Folder 60), Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections, Washington State University Libraries, Pullman, WA.
- “Modernism.” Architecture.Com, 2020, www.architecture.com/explore-architecture/modernism. Accessed 27 Feb. 2020.
- Mwaniki, Andrew. “What Is Contemporary Architecture?” WorldAtlas, WorldAtlas, 23 Oct. 2017, www.worldatlas.com/articles/what-is-contemporary-architecture.html. Accessed 27 Feb. 2020.
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