Charles B. Wang Center
The Charles B. Wang Center, located at the State University of New York at Stony Brook in Stony Brook, New York, is dedicated to understanding East Asian and American cultures, and the interactions of these cultures with other world cultures. The center was completed in 2002, and was designed by P.H. Tuan. Building of the center was intended to be funded by Charles B. Wang through an over 40 million dollar donation to Stony Brook University, which was then the largest ever private donation to a SUNY school. Actual construction costs far exceeded the original donation, becoming a source of controversy among students and faculty at the time.
Controversy over the building was further fueled by its prolonged construction period, its prime location in the heart of the academic mall, and its intended usage. Many students and faculty felt that devoting so many important resources to a building which would house neither classes nor faculty offices was ill-advised. The building's food court is run by a private restaurant called Jasmine, making it the only non-unionized commissary on campus. Recent complaints received by the University has led to a campus wide petition concerning the decibel levels associated with the large number of running fountains.
The building covers 120,000 square feet (11,000 m²), and is noted for its interior architecture. The building holds numerous conference halls, classrooms (although no classes have been held in the building), auditoriums, a chapel, and an East Asian food court for students. Thus far, the center has been the location for numerous presentations, as well as films, and conferences that deal with multicultural issues.
The Charles B. Wang Center initiates and collaborates with academic departments, student groups, community organizations, and individuals in presenting the public with a multifaceted, intellectually sound, and humane understanding of East Asian cultures, and their relationship to other cultures.
The Wang Center is also a presenting venue for events of cultural, professional and intellectual calibre that are initiated by and involve the various components of Stony Brook University, Long Island communities and organizations, as well as other regional, national, and international constituencies. The Wang Center is non-partisan and non-sectarian, and upholds the values of pluralism, democracy, and equality.
Bridge Across Cultures
The Charles B. Wang Center building is adorned with a 100-foot octagonal pagoda, a structure traditionally associated with Chinese temples. The Center is an international hub bringing East Asians and Americans into a common space, a marketplace of ideas for the 21st Century.
Architect PH Tuan has captured Wang’s ideals in a building resonant with the traditions of East Asian design. Spare gray walls, pierced with three red trellis entrances, invite the visitor to explore the treasures of the interior. Within, Tuan has unified the elements of interior space, the outdoors, and the enclosing sky, using wide expanses of glass to frame traditional East Asian gardens, pools, and bridges. The Center has the capability to link scholars and researchers from all over the world in real time, and it welcomes many cultural and artistic activities, especially those that reflect the cultures of East Asia. Scholars, students, international business people, and East Asian-American communities use the facility to build bridges of understanding, exchange information, and celebrate their cultural identities.
The main ceremonial entrance leads across an ornamental pool into a spacious reception area. The three-story space is filled with natural light and the sound of fountains that flow from 12 Chinese Zodiac sculptures into the south pool. To the north of the lobby is an expansive outdoor garden, while more intimate interior galleries lie west and south. These are designed as a showcase for cultural displays and art exhibitions of varying sizes. A 239-seat theater hosts audiences for the performing arts and other events. Well equipped with conference facilities, the Center holds two mid-sized lecture halls that are wired for laptops and the most current audiovisual presentations.