Merging Community and Privacy at the University of Minnesota

Dec. 8, 2020

Located on the east bank of the Mississippi River, the second oldest residence hall at the University of Minnesota recently became its second largest. The 90-year-old Pioneer Hall opened its doors to the 2019 freshman and sophomore class after completing $104.5 million in renovations.

Minneapolis, Minn.
TKDA; KWK Architects

Now more than 40% larger than its original size, Pioneer Hall boasts a historically sensitive, but modern design within a 252,391-sq.-ft. facility supplying 756 beds to students across five floors. This includes preserving the building’s historic Georgian Revival-style exterior, while gutting an interior that previously consisted of adjoining townhomes that were exceedingly difficult to navigate and failed to connect on every level.

Providing the architectural support, electrical, mechanical and structural design services for the two-year renovation project was tkda, which was also tasked with creating a mixed-gender, engaging atmosphere that would draw students into the community environment. kwk Architects of St Louis, Mo. were the design-architects, developing several options in search of a design that best synchronized the project budget and the needs.


Sara Koester, a principal at KWK Architects, knew where to turn for the stylish and private floor-to-ceiling toilet and shower systems needed for Pioneer Hall. “We worked directly with Scranton Products to create partitions for the recently-constructed, 600-bed 17th Avenue Residence Hall,” explains Koester. “It provided the facility with bathrooms and showers that merged striking aesthetics and low-maintenance with easy-to-clean features, privacy and comfort.”

Made of sturdy HDPE for commercial and institutional environments, Aria Partitions were developed by Scranton Products to add an enhanced level of comfort and privacy as well as elegance, warmth, and charm to virtually any enclosed or private room. This includes removing sightlines with a continuous edge-mounted hinge and greatly improving aesthetics with a design that doesn’t use face mounted hardware like traditional partition systems. Since both the toilet and shower doors look alike, TKDA and KWK also worked with a signage shop to develop customized signage that designate use and occupancy, inserted into coordinated recesses in the door panels, and created by Scranton Products.

“We were looking for a new architectural language that fit with the old,” adds Brian Morse, a senior architect at TKDA. “The result was a residence filled with communal spaces offering varying scales of privacy, comfort and engagement. The Aria partitions fit perfectly into this design with partitions that ensured the highest level of privacy along with a non-conforming style that really helps Pioneer Hall stand out from the typical, uniform residence halls found on most college campuses.”


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