Category Archives: Campus Architecture

UConn Chem at 20

One of the sayings we have around here about our approach to design is; “endearing is enduring.” As we found during a recent event, the UConn Chemistry Building is Example 1.a. of that catchphrase.

In the two decades since the ribbon was cut, the building has endeared itself so much so that the Chemistry Department organized two days’ worth of events to celebrate its 20th anniversary. We were honored to take part in the festivities. Principal-in-Charge Mark Simon and Project Manager Jim Coan led the Blueprint Architect Tour of the building, and Mark took part in an exclusive Q&A session, going behind the scenes of how the project came to fruition.

As with any anniversary event, it was a trip down memory lane for those involved from the beginning. The first of two guided building tours started with a look at our model, which prompted Art Dimock (then-department head, now-lecturer emeritus) to recall a tidbit from the original planning meeting where the lone request from UConn Facilities Management was that the building have a pitched roof. Apparently one less building they had to worry about a flat [leaky] roof was a high priority.

The tours elicited a number of questions and comments. During one chem lab stop, a guest mentioned that there is a noticeable lack of any chemical odor. “It smells good in here.” Art attributed that to the building’s robust ventilation system.

Another guest, who is a new professor in the department and joined the tour to learn more about the building, was impressed that the labs have whiteboards on three walls – providing ample space for class participation.

One of the main talking points across both tours was the considerable extent of building systems and services necessary for a chem lab – fire protection piping, supply air ductwork, power, water, lab gases, telecommunications, etc. – and how they were laid out in layers that rundown the hallway and split off to each lab. There are no suspended ceilings in the lab areas and corridors. The original intent was, as needs and wants change over time – say changing a dry lab to a wet lab, or vice versa – that conversion work would be minimal. Building manager Tyler Cardinal confirmed the ease of access is indeed as originally intended.

Special access to the attic was granted for our tours. The sheer size of the equipment housed there is quite impressive, with the massive air handlers needed to properly vent a 200,000-square-foot chemistry building. As Mark noted, it’s also defacto bonus storage space not found in a flat roof building.

Overall, there have been very few changes in the 20 years since the Chemistry Building opened. A small library was converted to a tutoring room since journals are now accessible online. A computer lab was also adapted to a research lab since dedicated desktop workstations are no longer a necessity. There are more student locker spaces in the labs since enrollment is up in the last 20 years. Naturally, the size of equipment and instrumentation has decreased over the years, so the way some spaces are utilized has changed a bit as a result. The nuclear magnetic resonance equipment, for one, has changed dramatically. But as Mark commented upon entering one of the general chemistry labs, which can be extrapolated to the building on the whole, it pretty much is as it was in 1999.

And as it became clear from the event’s planning stages through execution, the building has indeed endured as it has endeared itself to so many. Chemistry department head Dr. Christian Bruckner, a great champion of the building, noted that only one chem faculty member has chosen to leave UConn for another institution since the building opened. He added that it is likewise a great recruiting tool for prospective faculty.

In fact, the Chemistry Building is so revered, it was commemorated on a cake during the event’s luncheon. Two cakes, to be exact!

Fun Fact #1:

The 14 large stacks perched on the roof ridges (see above) are prominent feature of the Chemistry Building’s exterior. Each is fed by multiple exhaust ducts – some more than others (see below) – but they are uniform in their size at seven feet wide by 19 feet high. Wind studies determined the height that would safely disperse the exhaust and reduce the potential for reentrainment at air intakes at this and adjacent buildings. And to add to the stack discussion – one of the 14 is actually for aesthetic purposes to keep the uniformity, and has no exhaust function. We’re not telling you which one, though!

Fun Fact #2:

The floor tile in the hallways of the two lab wings have a feature that would likely go undetected by a guest, but is essential knowledge to lab users. The darker tiles designate where the emergency services are located. So if one accidentally gets chemicals in their face, perhaps resulting in impaired vision, they can trek toward the distinguished dark tiles for the wash station. And to answer a follow-up question from the tour, there is no drain at the emergency wash station since the chemicals have to be safely contained.

Fun Fact #3:

The Chemistry Building has its own machine shop in the basement, where instruments can be manufactured or modified as needs arise for different experiments. There was also originally a glass blowing shop next door to the machine shop, but that service has since been outsourced.

To see more about the 20th anniversary events, UConn Chemistry set up a webpage on their site to commemorate the milestone. You can also check out this preview of the events from the UConn student newspaper.

Peabody Project Progressing

A view of the Central Gallery from the new addition to historic Yale Peabody Museum. (credit: Centerbrook Architects)

Our extensive Yale Peabody Museum of Natural history renewal project has recently received approval from both the New Haven Board of Alders and the City Planning Commission. As part of the municipal approval process, a number of new renderings were made public for the first time.

Among these renderings are two images of the Central Gallery, the first interior views to be released. The Central Gallery is the centerpiece of the project’s new construction, a four-story infill addition between the Peabody Museum and neighboring Environmental Science Center.

Also included in this image update are six new exterior views featuring landscape designs by James Corner Field Operations, whose portfolio includes award-winning projects like the High Line in Manhattan and Brooklyn’s Domino Park.

The multi-year project is currently targeted to commence construction in March 2020. More information can be found in this detailed update from the Yale Daily News.

Historical Context

Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History (Centerbrook Architects/James Corner Field Operations)

Our current job designing the expansion and renovation of the historic Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History is fascinating in a number of ways. I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t encourage you to read more about that on our project page, but in this blog post I wanted to share a neat historical tidbit that ties the Peabody with another prominent past client.

Like any of our renovation projects, I try to poke around the internet and find out all I can about a building’s history. And one of the pieces I always look for is who was the original architect. With the Peabody Museum, I was fairly quickly able to discover that it was designed by Charles Klauder. That was confirmed by an image of the original plans our architectural staff had attained.

Peabody Museum plans, dated March 21, 1923 (Yale University)

My inquiring mind then wanted to know more about Klauder. I quickly learned that he was one of the most notable campus architects of the 20th century, and he started in the profession at age 15! His list of design credits include institutions like Brown, Cornell and Princeton.

With a passion for sports history, I immediately recognized the name of perhaps his most famous campus building: the Cathedral of Learning at Pittsburgh. It was from atop the Cathedral that this famous and stunning image was taken of the 1960 World Series at Forbes Field below.

For the non-baseball historian, the Cathedral of Learning is notable as it is the tallest education building in the U.S. at 42 stories. It’s an icon not only of the University of Pittsburgh, but of the city itself.

Cathedral of Learning, University of Pittsburgh (Don Burkett/Wikimedia Commons)

After learning Klauder designed the Cathedral at Pitt, next I noticed he did Franklin Field at Penn. Wow. The Palestra, too. Double wow. Now you’re talking my language. Each of those venues oozes with sports history.

Franklin Field is home to the famed Penn Relays, Quakers football, and once upon a time the Philadelphia Eagles. Franklin is where the Eagles’ last NFL championship prior to this past season was clinched, and where the infamous Santa Claus incident took place.

The Palestra is a revered basketball cathedral. It has held more college hoops games than any court in the nation, for Penn, the Big Five and many others. It was at the leading edge of arena design at the time as it was one of the first without interior support pillars that obstructed sightlines.

The Palestra, University of Pennsylvania (Peetlesnumber1/Wikimedia Commons)

All that said, now back to my original point of tying the Peabody Museum to our previous work.

Klauder is also highly regarded for his master plan for the University of Colorado at Boulder. This was significant in that it established a distinct building style, later referred to as Tuscan Vernacular Revival, that CU is known for to this day. Klauder further set the precedent by subsequently designing 15 buildings on campus in the style.

In the 2000s, we added two new buildings to the CU landscape. Prior to that, recent building had strayed from the Tuscan Vernacular. But with the Wolf School of Law Building and the Center for Community, our designers built on the style Klauder established.

Center for Community and Wolf Law School, University of Colorado (Jeff Goldberg/ESTO)

Fast forward to 2018, and here we are once again, with an an opportunity to add to another Klauder design, this time at Yale. While the interior renovations will provide the first substantial modernization in the building’s history, the addition and new tower is a modern ode to the existing iconic design that has stood the test of time.

Much like the effort we started a decade ago in Colorado.

Addition, Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History (Centerbrook Architects/James Corner Field Operations)

Ties That Bind

Reese Stadium, Yale University.

Past and present have connected in New Haven County for a pair of our longstanding clients.

Construction of the new athletic complex at Quinnipiac University began last fall on the Mt. Carmel campus in Hamden, Connecticut, and will continue through the remainder of the academic year. As a result, the Bobcat men’s and women’s lacrosse teams needed a temporary home for their respective 2017 schedules.

Enter Yale University and Reese Stadium, also one of our projects.

The Reese job entailed a significant renovation and expansion of what was then a 30-year-old facility. The modernized lacrosse and soccer stadium reopened in 2011.

Six years later, Reese has welcomed its neighbors to the north. The 1,250-seat stadium is serving as host venue for Quinnipiac’s 2017 home contests.

The Bobcat women’s lacrosse squad has already played twice at Reese. The first resulted in a win. The second was technically an away game as it came versus the primary inhabitants of the facility – the Bulldogs of Yale – and ended in defeat. They’ll be back at Reese this weekend for one of five remaining games there on the calendar.

A preseason favorite to win its conference title, the Bobcat men’s lacrosse team held the first of six “home” games at Reese this past weekend and fell by a narrow one-goal margin. Unlike the women, the Quinnipiac and Yale men aren’t scheduled to face each other in 2017. Both made the NCAA Tournament last year, however, so you never know what the future may hold.

Quinnipiac’s new lacrosse and soccer venue, as well as an adjacent field hockey facility, will open for competition later this year.

Construction progress at the new Quinnipiac complex. The lacrosse-soccer facility is in the foreground with field hockey in the background. Photo courtesy FIP Construction.

The Idea Workshop

Come workshop your ideal learning environment with us this week at NAIS 2017.

It’s that time of year again. The 2017 National Association of Independent Schools Annual Conference (#NAISAC on Twitter) is on tap this week, and we’re looking forward to heading down to Baltimore.

If you’re attending, drop by Centerbrook’s Idea Workshop (Booth 315) or follow our conversation on Twitter at #WhatsYourVision. Tell us what you think makes for an ideal learning environment. We’ll be using a graffiti wall and a tabletop space planning exercise to interactively create and share ideas about learning space design.

So #WhatsYourVision for the ideal classroom? Maker labs? Collaborative spaces? Outdoor integration? Join the conversation. We’d love to hear from you.

If you stop by, you’ll meet Todd Andrews, Russell Learned and Katie Roden Symonds. Todd and Russell lead Centerbrook’s Pedagogy CoDE (Community of Design Expertise) and all three are at the forefront of research and practice in education design.

The NAIS Conference is an annual gathering of independent school administrators, trustees and teachers. This year’s conference will be held March 1-3 at the Baltimore Convention Center in Maryland.

Centerbrook Independent School Portfolio

MICDS Robotics Laboratory.

Reflections on a “Whole New School”

Photos by Joe Darwal

Centerbrook has designed and overseen the construction of a new academic and science wing for the University School, a renowned independent school for boys located in Hunting Valley, Ohio. Gently curving away from the school’s main academic and administration building and down the center of a peninsula in a nearby lake, the rectangular structure’s windowed south wall harvests both natural light and solar heat. The three-story, 52,000-square-foot building is slated for either LEED Silver or Gold and is now open for the current school year.

In addition to its Upper School facilities at Hunting Valley for grades 9 through12, University School maintains a second campus for K-8 in Shaker Heights, Ohio.

Centerbrook Partner Mark Simon, FAIA, who led a design team with Project Manager Russell Learned and Associate Katie Roden, both AIA, discussed the project with me recently.  Continue reading Reflections on a “Whole New School”

Colorful Architecture

Photos: Jeff Goldberg/Esto

Picking colors totally freaks people out, from homeowners to Fortune 500 CEOs. Re-painting, even re-re-painting is common. Getting the six exterior colors right at the new Hillside Research Campus at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory was critical to its success in blending in: both with the built and natural setting at the venerable institution and also with the character of the surrounding community. Re-painting was not an option.

The project was recently named one of six finalists in the World Architecture News Colour Awards. The jurors pared the international field from 79 to Hillside Campus, two schools in England and Slovenia, an office building in France, a residential tower in Australia, and a biochemistry building at Oxford University in England.  Continue reading Colorful Architecture

Once You Saw it…Now You Don’t

A short while ago, when coming down Prospect Street in New Haven, you would have spied a sleek, one-story, silver classroom and office building with horizontal metal siding and long patterns of windows that seemed to race by each other. It was an intriguing curiosity, boldly announcing that it was having fun. And yet its demure profile let it nestle neatly into a residential neighborhood. Long and sinuous, it meandered around a flagstone-paved entry court with floor-to-ceiling glass under a short porch, welcoming academics to enter.

There was more than a hint of acceleration. Designed a decade ago and constructed in only 9 months (and at half the going cost), this was a temporary building to house Yale’s Political Science Department, which was homeless following the demolition of its old digs and before the establishment of a permanent base. Continue reading Once You Saw it…Now You Don’t

The Best Laid Plans…

Center for Community, University of Colorado Boulder, Photo by Casey A. Cass

Anyone who has remodeled a bathroom, or even a broom closet, knows that building projects tend not to proceed as planned. Surprises are common, and the work can take longer and cost more than expected – if one is not vigilant. Even when the execution goes smoothly, sometimes the basic concept is flawed: for example, the outdoor hot tub that nobody uses after the first month due to the resident black fly population and the astronomical electric bill.

Things didn’t go exactly as planned with the Center for Community (C4C) at the University of Colorado, Boulder, which is home to nearly 30,000 students. At more than 300,000 square feet, the new building is much larger than a broom closet and was designed to foster community on a sprawling campus among students, faculty and staff, and even individuals from the surrounding towns. That was the plan, anyway. Continue reading The Best Laid Plans…

Designing on the Fly

Center for Community "Working Wall"

Editor’s Note: Architect Scott Allen was a member of the Centerbrook design team led by partner Jim Childress for the University of Colorado at Boulder’s Center for Community. Revit is the 3D modeling software that, along with other new technologies, has revolutionized how and where architectural design and planning can be conducted. Below, Scott recounts three days in the life of modern design, a frenetic hi-tech road trip that was preceded by three months of preliminary research and collaboration with the client and members of the widely dispersed design team. It would take several more months to finalize the planning for the 320,000-square-foot building, which opened last fall to critical acclaim both on and off campus.

CENTERBROOK, CT – March 4, 2008, 9:04 AM EST: Design charette with Jim. We (OK, mostly Jim) have sketched out about a dozen different ideas; thankfully, he settles on five. Peter and I have the rest of the day to lay them out floor by floor in Revit to confirm we’re in the client’s programmatic ballpark.

1:00 PM – Transcontinental GoTo Meeting with the Davis Partnership design team, our collaborators in Colorado, to discuss schedule, presentation materials, and evaluate various schemes – also to confirm we will have time in Denver to print drawings and construct massing models for the five building concepts. No way airport security will let us walk on board armed to the teeth with drawing tubes.

March 5, 4:15 AM – Leaving house to make flight to Denver

5:33 AM – Bradley Airport: Peter’s new pants still have price tags on them. I have an internal debate over whether to tell him. Continue reading Designing on the Fly