University of Kansas DeBruce Center

A historic document becomes a catalyst for a new campus destination.

In 1891 Dr. James Naismith invented basketball with thirteen rules written on two sheets of paper. Over a century later a KU alumnus bought the original document at auction and donated it to the university with the provision to construct a building worthy to enshrine it. Weaving the story of this new facility around this inspirational document, the design explored the possibilities of how the space could be a vibrant hub of invention and activated by diverse user groups. As timeless as this document has become it was important that this building was designed with a focus on long term relevancy and adaptability.

We embraced these goals as a point of departure for designing a new type of hybrid building that combines dining and exhibit to engage student athletes, basketball fans and the wider campus community all year – not just on game days.

A destination for campus activity

A rich program of dining venues, exhibits, a donor reception area, a gift shop, and a training table for the basketball teams are all tied together with a sinuous path that appears to float through the three-story volume. This path engages students and visitors, inviting them to experience the various layers of the setting from the front lawn to the the historic Allen Fieldhouse, or en route to the rest of campus. This layered connection provides the necessary transformation from daily student activity to game-day festivities–remaining constantly activated for a possibility realized.

An interpretive exhibit for the Original Rules and a student commons are woven together in an interactive experience through a linear pathway that connects the DeBruce Center with historic Allen Fieldhouse.

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original rules of basketball image

An experience of the game's evolution

The single-story bridge that connects the second floor of the DeBruce Center to the Fieldhouse contains the original 451-word rules document in an interactive exhibit that features the only known audio recording of James Naismith explaining the game.

The bridge is enshrined by a perforated aluminum scrim containing some of the more than 45,000 words that make up the contemporary rules of the game, illustrating basketball’s evolution.

Multiple experiential layers surround visitors, whether stopping at the café, lingering for a meal, enjoying half-time during a game, or on a pilgrimage to absorb a piece of basketball history. The careful use of materials, unique combination of dining and exhibit space, and processional design create a memorable experience that bridges past and present.

The jury found this project to be an intriguing hybrid of archival exhibition and student gathering, programs not often contained within a single project. Award Jurors AIA Kansas
Lawrence, KS
32,000 sq.ft.
The Chicago Athenaeum
American Architecture Award
AIA Central States
Design Excellence Merit Award
University of Kansas
Steve Hall
Multistudio asterisk