Generating a Different Sort of Electricity

Entry: Power House Restaurant
The Big Idea: The Power House project solved two problems for USM: it gave the campus community a unique, dynamic gathering spot, and it did it by making use of what had been wasted, unused space. The building in which the restaurant sits was literally once a powerhouse that supplied USM with steam boiler-generated heat in the mid-20th century, but had sat unused (except for storage) for many years afterward. The conversion of the space into a restaurant/social space takes advantage of the building's unique features, not least its iconic hundred-foot circular brick smokestack, soaring interior space, exposed piping and red-brick walls. Huge floorto-ceiling windows let in plenty of natural light, and an outdoor courtyard offers an alternative space to the indoor areas. The look combines history, like the 1930s-style mahogany bar, and the contemporary: there are 20 flat screen TVs and a projection screen to view sports events, along with an entertainment stage. USM traditions are highlighted with wall banners depicting campus scenes and honoring notable alumni. The menu, courtesy of Aramark, highlights meats smoked onsite along with signature regional favorites like gumbo, ribs and fried catfish.

Project Team: USM—Sidney Gonsoulin (Associate VP-Student Affairs); Aramark—Pat Foley (Resident District Manager); Tipton Associates (architect)

Midtown Marvel

Entry: Cafe 57
The Big Idea: It's not exactly tough to find a good place to grab lunch in Midtown Manhattan, and for an eatery to stand out there it practically has to have its chefs doing cartwheels between the tables. Yet, Hearst Corp., the venerable magazine publishing empire (Esquire, Good Housekeeping, Cosmopolitan, etc.), has managed to open a real eye-catcher of an inhouse dining venue, Cafe 57, in its new headquarters building on 57th Street (hence the cafe name).

Cafe 57 is not only visually stunning—the spacious white-marble-floored atrium area floods with natural light from high glass windows and a glass ceiling—but culinarily exquisite, with an array of gourmet-quality food choices offered each day by dining services provider Restaurant Associates. These range from vegetarian and vegan choices, often with organic ingredients, to freshly rolled sushi, authentic ethnic selections and daily specialty dishes from a chef's table. Ecological values are also emphasized, from the free-range chicken and sustainable seafood on the menu to the recycled rainwater that pours down the indoor waterfall adjacent to the cafe. How does it do against its Manhattan competition? Participation at lunch is over 60 percent, and 30 percent at breakfast.

Project Team: Hearst Corp.—Brian Schwagerl (VPReal Estate & Facilities Planning); Restaurant Associates—Julie Sajda (Director of Operations), Charles LaMonica (Senior VP), Michael Gallagher (VP-Culinary), Jayson Brown (Executive Chef); Ira Beer (kitchen design); Arlene Spiegel (foodservice consultant)

Taking Center Stage

Entry: CenterCourt Dining Center
the Big idea: UC's new Recreational Center complex, of which CenterCourt is a vital component, represents an emphatic response to the challenges facing urban universities by creating a stirring campus gathering place. CenterCourt, with its glass-and-metal design dynamics, undulating metal roof, eye-in-the-sky views (the seating area looks down on the athletic complex basketball courts) and array of four two-station serving islands proferring freshly prepared dishes (courtesy of foodservices provider Aramark) significantly elevates the quality of the dining choices at the university. The serving islands alleviate lunchtime crushes by channeling traffic efficiently through the servery while giving customers over 225 unique entree options each week. CenterCourt has helped UC increase meal plan participation 20 percent and retail customers by 300 percent in its first year.

Project Team: UC Campus Services—Steve Sayers, Ann Sullivan, Todd Duncan, John Hautz; Aramark—Omar Rayan, Spyros Gravas, Janelle Craft; UC Office of the University Architect; Brailsford & Dunlavey, Thom Mayne of Morphosis, KZF, Inc., Ricca Newmark Design (consultants)