State University of New York
About this Project
SUNY Wooster Hall is an iconic building on the State University of New York (SUNY) campus at New Paltz.
The original 1960s design of Wooster Hall exemplified Brutalist architecture, as seen in its hulking, imposing concrete facade, and fortress-like geometry. This popular modernist style of the 1950s-70s aimed for solid, weighty forms relying on exposed concrete construction. However, Brutalist structures often deteriorated over time and became perceived as unwelcoming. Nonetheless, Wooster Hall has remained a fixture on the campus.
Wooster Hall Renovation Fills Iconic Building with Natural Light
Led by Croxton Collaborative Architects (CCA), SUNY New Paltz’s iconic Wooster Hall underwent an extensive renovation in 2012 to update the outdated mid-century Brutalist structure. The renovation of Wooster Hall aimed to bring natural sunlight back into the previously closed-off Brutalist design.
As CCA President Randy Croxton explained, “We worked diligently to tame natural light, foster soft light, use small apertures, and create lighted canopies overhead.” The daylighting creates a humanistic learning environment aligned with circadian rhythms.
Strategic skylights and windows now fill the interior with sunshine. The main entryway features a dramatic skylight by Crystal Structures to demonstrate the Sun’s daily movement. This and other light-inspired architecture aims to reconnect users with natural cycles, enhancing wellbeing.
In Croxton’s words, the aim was to “bring you back to natural systems” and restore awareness of “the time of day and the Sun.” This connection to sunlight enhances well-being and creates a humanistic learning environment.
Notable light-inspired architecture include:
- Skylight and reflectors fill the interior with natural light
- Floor map oriented to align with the campus geography
- Panoramic Gunks mural connecting users with the local landscape
- Stairway light display marking solar equinoxes and solstices
- South-facing cantilever shading for seasonal solar response
Sunlight strongly influences human biology, culture, and architecture throughout history. By referencing ancient sites like Stonehenge, the Wooster Hall design taps into this deep connection. The play of light throughout the day evokes natural cycles of life, death, and rebirth.
Revitalizing the concrete thermal mass and opening the building to natural light provides Wooster Hall with a sense of balance and high performance. The USGBC calls it “an exemplar of a fully realized sustainable envelope transformation.” The interplay of light and shadow creates a next-generation learning facility.
The renovated Wooster Hall aspires to LEED Gold certification and meets the energy goals of the AIA 2030 Challenge. The transformation helps SUNY New Paltz meet its strategic goals for modern academic facilities. The combination of natural light, open circulation, and connections between academic spaces facilitate student-faculty collaboration.
According to CCA President Randolph Croxton, “This project leveraged fifty years of evolving design knowledge and values to revolutionize the building’s program and purpose, marking a transition from Brutalism to humanism on the same structural scaffold.”