D. Stephen & Diane Walker Convocation Center
Built on the southern end of West Virginia State University’s formal quad, Fleming Hall has long served as the primary venue for indoor athletics in addition to the academic needs of multiple departments since 1941. The original structure housed the campus’s only gymnasium, a natatorium, academic classrooms, administrative offices, and related support space. Although serving faithfully the family of this HBCU for over seventy years, Fleming Hall would fall victim to failing building systems, dated finishes, and poor functionality in meeting the needs of modern day teaching, learning, recreation, and varsity competition. With a strong commitment from the University administration, Fleming Hall would be identified as a historic anchor of the physical campus to be preserved and enhanced, allowing for a continuation of service excellence to its students and equipping the institution in meeting its’ vision for dynamic growth.
In 2010, the West Virginia Economic Development Authority authorized the issuance of revenue bonds to support capital improvement projects for higher education institutions throughout the state, including a commitment of $15 million to support the renovation of Fleming Hall and the addition of a new Convocation Center. Coupled with nearly $4 million dollars of university funds and private donations, the new D. Stephen and Diane H. Walker Convocation Center opened on March 1, 2014. In addition to having fully renovated classrooms, offices and locker rooms, the project features a new 1,300-seat arena addition for intercollegiate basketball and volleyball while also serving as the University’s premier space for commencement and convocation ceremonies and other campus-wide gatherings.
The design concept remains sympathetic to the existing campus architecture while providing a relevant and engaging architectural language speaking to the students of today and tomorrow. The original massing and detailing of Fleming Hall is of a modest collegiate gothic character, purely symmetrical and in dialogue with the original Ferrell Hall education and administration building directly opposite the beautiful campus quad. Fleming Hall’s original building envelope was preserved, and the new convocation center addition appropriately continues the symmetrical order, carrying the dominant campus axis through the facility to the south. From a master plan perspective, it presents a new face for the planned athletic quad and will be reinforced by future improvements to many of the surrounding facilities and greenspaces. The main entrance to the new addition, a radiused two-story volume with a trio of large rectangular glazed openings honors the form and detailing of the original natatorium space which was removed. Building materials of cast stone and brick veneer in a modified Flemish bond continue the fundamental campus language throughout, while more relevantly detailed metal canopies and glazing bring a new and compelling palette to the entry plaza while providing both natural light and passive solar shading to the primary public interiors.
Through donations by the National Basketball Association and many alumni partners and friends, the main lobby honors Earl Francis Lloyd, the first African-American player and coach in the NBA, himself a proud WVSU alumnus. The primary space of the addition, the new convocation center and arena incorporates the finest of materials and systems, cleanly ordered and executed in the bold colors of the University. Together with dramatic athletic lounges, locker rooms, classrooms, and training facilities, the renovated and new facilities place WVSU at the top of its’ conference among peer institutions and marks a bold new future for this 1891 Land Grant Institution in Southern West Virginia.
West Virginia State University