Sandstone unifies campus design at UNLV

November 1, 2009
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Red and beige sandstone - supplied by The Tuscany Collection of Las Vegas, NV - creates a striking exterior facade for the new Greenspun Hall at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.


The recent construction of Greenspun Hall on the campus of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) brings a sense of unity to the Greenspun College of Urban Affairs. Created in 1996, the college includes the departments of criminal justice, environmental studies, communication studies and public administration as well as the School of Social Work and Hank Greenspun School of Journalism and Media Studies. The development of the new facility will now bring six of the seven academic units under one roof - fostering more collaboration among department faculty and students. And in addition to providing an environment for learning and social networking, the new building also contributes aesthetic value to the campus. With a prominent position on the corner of campus, the five-story, 120,000-square-foot building stands strong with an exterior of red and beige sandstone, which was supplied by MS International Inc. of Orange, CA, and distributed through The Tuscany Collection of Las Vegas, NV.

Approximately 40 truckloads of red and beige sandstone was needed for the construction of the new building. The majority of the pieces were 18 x 36 inches, and most had a thickness of 2 inches.

“While the new complex complements the Modernist vocabulary of UNLV’s existing buildings, all built since the 1950s, it relies on time-tested strategies to encourage collegiality: program functions are grouped around a common courtyard; broad stairways and hallways with alcoves facilitate informal interaction,” according to a design statement released by Robert A.M. Stern Architects, who worked in association with HKS Architects, Inc. “A two-story entry commons links the ground floor to the elevated courtyard at the northwest corner of the site. Classrooms line the courtyard to the west and the L-shaped office wing defines the courtyard’s north and east edges.”

And when it came to choose a material for the structure’s exterior facade, it was important to select something that would create a strong presence, as it is the fifth largest academic facility on campus. Additionally, the new hall needed to fit with its natural habitat. “The palette of tawny brick and red sandstone evokes the desert,” according to the architect’s design statement.

The sandstone exterior was also selected to maintain a cohesiveness with the university’s overall architecture. “There is a theme at UNLV where other buildings on campus also have sandstone cladding,” according to a statement from Frazier Masonry Corp. of Camarillo, CA, who performed the stone installation. “Greenspun Hall follows the ongoing sandstone theme and blends well with the existing architecture on campus.”

A distinguishing architectural element of Greenspun Hall’s design is the “UNLV tower,” which stretches 55 feet above the roof on the building’s east side - 125 feet from the ground - and consists of a 57-foot-long, 11-foot-wide, steel-braced frame system.

The Tuscany Collection delivered approximately 40 truckloads of red and beige sandstone to Frazier Masonry for the construction of the new building. The majority of the pieces were 18 x 36 inches, and most had a thickness of 2 inches.

According to Frazier Masonry, mock-ups were done prior to installation. “[Additionally], a normal amount of sorting was done on site due to color variation,” said the installation team. The stone pieces were attached to the building by “putting stainless steel mechanical anchors into saw cut kerf in stone.”

A distinguishing architectural element of Greenspun Hall’s design is the “UNLV tower,” which stretches 55 feet above the roof on the building’s east side - 125 feet from the ground - and consists of a 57-foot-long, 11-foot-wide, steel-braced frame system. The university’s letters were carved with a laser jet into the sandstone, which Frazier Masonry explained was one of the most challenging aspects of project.

The university’s letters were carved with a laser jet into the sandstone, which Frazier Masonry explained was one of the most challenging aspects of project.

In total, the installation team was comprised of 20 workers. It took five months to complete the stone installation, according to Frazier Masonry.

History of Greenspun Hall

The design and construction of the new Greenspun Hall was the result of a donation by the Greenspun family, which has served as the Greenspun College’s benefactor since the early 1990s, initiating with the founding of the Greenspun School of Communication, which is now the Hank Greenspun School of Journalism and Media Studies. The school was named in honor of Hank Greenspun, the founder and publisher of the Las Vegas Sun newspaper.

After donating funding to start the School of Journalism, the Greenspun family made a second donation to UNLV to establish the Greenspun College of Urban Affairs. At this time, serious discussions were sparked about constructing a new building for the college. These discussions ultimately resulted in a third donation from the Greenspun Family Foundation to build Greenspun Hall.

The selection of sandstone for the building’s exterior was in keeping with existing campus architecture. In addition to the facade, the material was used for other architectural elements such as planters.

In June of 2005, Nevada state legislators approved the use of additional funding from the state to assist with the cost of the building, establishing a successful public-private partnership that university administrators hope to build with future donors. The entire project was priced at $93.7 million.

A groundbreaking ceremony for Greenspun Hall was held on January 24, 2007, and construction commenced in May of that year. The building was completed around May 2008, and faculty and staff moved in to their new quarters in September 2008. An official dedication took place on December 2, 2008.

“The overall reaction to the new building on campus has been very positive and impressed,” stated Frazier Masonry. According to UNLV, Greenspun Hall was on track to obtain a Gold Level Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Certification

Sidebar: Greenspun Hall

Greenspun College of Urban Affairs

University of Nevada, Las Vegas

Architect: HKS Architects, Inc. in association with Robert A.M. Stern Architects

General Contractor: Clark Construction Group, LLC, Las Vegas, NV

Stone Supplier: MS International Inc., Orange, CA

Stone Distributor: The Tuscany Collection, Las Vegas, NV

Stone Installer: Frazier Masonry Corp., Camarillo, CA

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