Facility Focus (Landscapes and Outdoor Learning Spaces)

University of Minnesota, Mankato: The Connection

University of Minnesota, Mankato


The Connection at the University of Minnesota, Mankato (MSUM) solves a delicate campus planning challenge with two solutions in one — an underground pedestrian link crossing the campus mall, and an outdoor amphitheater/classroom that enhances student life.

Considered the heart of the campus, MSUM’s mall bustles with activity throughout the year. Connecting the student union, library and several classroom buildings, its robust program of sculptures and public spaces provide a gathering place for students that is welcoming, functional and artistic.

The university wanted to provide an ADA-compliant indoor passage for students crossing the mall from the library to the student union during the brutal Minnesota winters without introducing a disruptive element to the mall’s open, energetic design.

LEO A DALY responded by designing a pedestrian link that is integrated into the existing campus and becomes a key element to the campus mall: a “tunnel” with one side exposed to an amphitheater cut into the existing grade. In cold weather, a 33-foot expanse of curtain wall fills the indoor passageway with natural light. In nice weather, that same curtain wall plays backdrop to outdoor student performances, classes and movie nights.

Within the Connection, the east wall slopes back at 35 degrees from vertical. It is composed of shotcrete on top of excavated soil, waterproofing and a 3-inch-deep steel ribbed roof deck backfilled with concrete. This angled wall provides an efficient and compact structure for earth retainage, and made possible smaller and therefore less expensive footings as well as minimal disruption to the mall’s existing plantings and walking surfaces. In addition to being a structural element in the wall design, the roof decking served as a framework for the cast-in-place concrete (a project requirement). This minimized the need for supports and rented formwork and enabled construction to meet an aggressive schedule.

This article originally appeared in the issue of .