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Duke Medical Center Bookstore New Location with

Gothic Feel

The Duke Blue Devils symbol is carved into the service desk and the cashier counter as part of the bookstore’s gothic design theme.


hen Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C., needed space to construct a new cancer center, a new location for the Duke Medical Center Bookstore was in order. Thanks to a design company that retained the school’s gothic architecture, the new bookstore serves as an attractive and practical destination for students and faculty. Brian Buttram, associate director, Duke University Stores, explained that the original space the bookstore occupied was in an older building in the middle of two medical facilities, and the older building was getting torn down in order to construct the new cancer center. “The medical center needed the space we were occupying, and was able to create a new space for us in one of the hospitals,” he said. That new location was on the lower level of the Duke Clinic, one of many Duke University Health System locations throughout North Carolina and Virginia. “It was a renovation of an area we did not occupy previously,” Buttram said. “It’s not a new building, but it’s a new space for us.” What is unique about the new location is that the space previously served as a railroad station. “We had a tram that ran from two different hospitals,” he explained. “The railroad tracks got covered up and the store sits on top of that now.” The old bookstore location was on two floors and broken up into three different sections. The new bookstore is one floor and provides a functional and practical shopping destination in “one 5,300-square-foot contiguous space,” Buttram said.

DESIGN PROCESS The project was accelerated because of the quick need for the medical center to relocate the bookstore to the new space. Buttram turned to AWI Fixtures and Interiors Inc., a Pennsylvania-based manufacturer of store fixtures and interiors that had done previous work at Duke University, and its president, Samuel Matthews. “We started meeting in October 2009 to discuss the space we were going to get,” he said. “Then it all got accelerated. It took a while for the medical center to finally decide that we would get the space we got. After that, within three weeks, we had to have a final design ready from Samuel, and then quotes so we could get it all in the process. Then he could have six weeks to actually produce the items. “It was only about three months from final decision to completion. It was a very accelerated process.” The design scheme for the new bookstore incorporated the gothic architecture that Duke is known for, including its arches. “The Duke Blue Devils symbol was carved into the service desk and the cashier counter,” Buttram said. “In addition, the end caps of each of the bookshelves have arch detail with slatwall in the middle of that. That pulled in the gothic feel throughout the whole store.” Matthews echoed the idea of keeping the gothic feel when designing the store. “As far as the store and the university is concerned, they have a couple of signature details — one is the cherry color and the other is they have a gothic feel with the arches; they have a full cathedral on campus as well. Ev-

The end caps of each bookshelf in the Duke Medical Center Bookstore feature arches that highlight the gothic architecture that the university is known for.

erything is stone; we were kind of playing up on that. “We laser cut the symbols into the counters. They give us the logo, we actually program it onto a laser, and then we actually cut it out on steel, paint it and then put it right into the counter. It gives them branding from the get-go.” He continued, “What we did was dress the columns. They have support columns throughout the store, and to make them part of the store, we actually have enclosures that wrap around the columns. If they want to hang a picture or something, we put slats in them, and they can actually use it as some form of a display. “There is also electrical wiring running through the columns, and they didn’t want anyone to see that. The enclosure hides any unseen electrical wiring.” In addition to the service counter and back service counter, Matthews and his team did some separate icons, which were mounted into some of the fixtures. “They were basically integrated as branding right into the fixtures,” he said. Matthews also incorporated AWI’s palette of three colors — silver vein, oil cherry and black — into the gothic theme, along with the cobalt Corian countertops. “We were trying to keep a theme with all the fixtures,” he explained. “No matter what we built, they all kind of blended into one an-





other. The black and silver vein were done because they hide dust; the oil cherry was picked because it has more of a richer look to it.” Matthews also decided that most of the slatwall in the store should be done six inches on center. “When you see the wall with slats on it, the reason why we go to a fatter slat six inches apart is because you don’t want to see a million lines running across on that wall. It’s just too much for the eye to see, so if you spread them out, you see more wood and less horizontal lines. “We’re trying to create a feel that it’s bigger than it actually is, and it’s prettier than it needs to be. When we do these lines vertically and horizontally, if there are any flaws in the material, your eyes can’t see it immediately because your eyes just don’t focus on it.” Matthews called the bookstore’s design process a collaborative effort. “The fixtures and design were from us, but where the other part of the collaboration came from was the architect — Roughton, Nicholson and Deluca Architects out of Durham — because they picked the floor coloring, picked the ceiling and we blended along with them. They set everything in place, and we piggybacked off of that. “We also had the assistance of Showbest Fixture Corp., based out of Richmond, Va., which supplied the metal fixtures. AWI Fixtures worked in conjunction with Showbest to fulfill the customer’s needs.”

ally caught the people’s eye. It really classes up the look of everything. It draws in not just any fixtures, but it’s Duke fixtures.” The design elements of the new bookstore attract more students and faculty members to the store, and also help give the bookstore an identity. “It gives it the Duke identity. It brands it as Duke fixtures,” Buttram pointed out. “The way it looks to us when you go in, it’s not just standard fixtures you’d see anywhere else; it’s specific to Duke. “It’s also not just the detail at the registers, but even behind the registers — the use of the gothic arches across the crown moldings. It just really pulls in the look of the university.” Matthews noted that the store’s design elements create a “Wow!” factor for anyone who walks through the doors of the new facility. “Everybody who I’ve talked to, from the project manager to the construction company and the architect, the words usually come in a set of three — ‘Wow! Wow! Wow!” The “Wow!” factor also extends to the students and faculty who are awed by the eyecatching design of the new bookstore.

The support columns contain enclosures with slats so that bookstore personnel can use them for displays

“When people come in, from what they had seen before, the first thing they say is ‘Wow!,” Matthews said. “They see the front counter, then they walk into the middle of the store where it opens up and the next thing is ‘Wow!’ They have just been complimented to no end.” The gothic design is expected to keep customers in the store for longer periods of time. “Faculty members will feel more comfortable shopping at the store because it’s more current to what they’re used to,” Matthews explained. “I think people will have a much better feel to spend more time to shop.” —CSE

GRAND OPENING Buttram explained that things got hectic in the final days leading up to the store’s opening. “We shut down our operations at our old place on May 6. The moving company showed up and started packing everything. At 3:00 that afternoon, we closed operations. We spent the rest of that day, and Friday and Saturday, setting up, and we opened on the 10th.” Matthews also acknowledged that the installation process went down to the wire. “The project started in early January and concluded on May 10,” he said. “When Brian Buttram opened the store on May 10, we were finishing up installation on May 10. It took us six weeks to manufacture and one week to install.” Buttram was very pleased with AWI’s work from start to finish. “Working with Samuel has been quite pleasant because he gets involved with the entire process, from meeting with the project team and with the architects from the beginning,” he noted. “He makes sure that everything gets done in the way that we need it to get done.” Feedback has been very positive since the store’s opening. “Everybody’s very happy with it,” Buttram said. “Our other space was chopped up, which was just the nature of the building we were in. This new space is one floor, and you can step in and see the product mix all the way across the floor. “The gothic architecture, the gothic theme that Samuel pulled into the fixtures, has re-

Reprinted from the November/December 2010 Issue of College Store Executive, ©2010 Executive Business Media

Duke University Medical Center Bookstore  

AWI Fixtures and Interiors Inc. helps provide a gothic feel for the new Duke University Medical Center Bookstore.

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