flexible research center : program and comprehensive detail study

re-program / re-order

Building upon the design methodology of a previous project involving serial design, the program was allowed to direct the physical form and arrangement of a space one as part of a flexible design solution. For this particular project, the cornerstone of the program directive was to engage the public with the fluid nature of design research. The relatively narrow site required that space for program be as efficient as possible, where rooms would have multiple purposes and can be even stored away when not in use.   

photograph of site shared by Laurie McGinley, site model base was a collaborative effort by studio members.

site context and process

The site is located on a steep slope with upper access to a future bicycle path and lower access to a neighborhood community. The upper portion of the site is also adjacent to an abandoned rail bridge and rail junction. For the purpose of this project it was assumed that the rail line would connect to the site from the northeast.   

The program was initially conceived with movable rooms on the upper level to allow public program elements to be arranged in larger or smaller gallery configurations for public viewing. The upper level meets the bicycle trail and includes a cafe and office space for rent. The arraignment for outdoor program can be adapted for seasonal changes by pushing all the programs together in winter or apart in summer. 

overview of lab space program

The research center benefits from the flexibility of an integral gantry crane on the upper level allowing for large pieces of equipment or containers brought via the rail line to be lowered directly into the research lab. Likewise, completed projects could be sent out for further field testing and research collaboration. This connection to the rail line can be used to transport project components, equipment, program elements, and entire research offices, to nearly any place in the country by freight rail. 

The program is fundamentally divided between what is public and what is private by level separation. The lecture hall is the one program block that bridges the gap between these programmatic domains both physically and conceptually.

retaining wall / core arrangements

Static programs and core services, such as restrooms and circulation, are located in the massive retaining wall holding back the berm. This armature serves the programed spaces by opening up and freeing the plan for the larger program elements. 

Shown in plan it can be seen that no space is wasted when walls and rooms are allowed to move out of the way for shifts in program. Smaller spaces for meetings and conferences can be created by utilizing the folding panels hidden out of sight until needed. Instead of doors, walls can be pulled out to make a room larger when it is occupied.

program relocation / mechanical expression

The variable arrangement of the offices just behind the curtain wall produces a dynamic facade condition that is a direct result of the re-programing of the center. The benefit is that researchers have close access to their personalized offices and materials regardless if they are working in the library, the classroom, or the lab on any given day. The offices are on vertical tracks and can be moved virtually anywhere. Likewise the garage is on display as an automated rack system highlighting mechanical intervention. This experience coupled with the repositioning of offices, the gantry crane, and the folding interior walls creates an atmosphere of purposeful movement.

Comprehensive Detail studio : skin

area of further inquiry

The goal of this studio was to continue the design process of a previous project through examining a critical detail. By examining a detail through drawing and model building it also informed the system design on a larger scale. The dialogue between building the model and drawing the sections shaped an understanding of how the whole became greater than a sum of assembled parts.

The design concept of the lecture hall is a mass that passes through the public roof level to rest on the interior private lab floor joining the two domains of program. Exploring how to give the impression that the lecture hall is a separate yet unifying entity of the buildings function would be an intriguing inquiry. It proved to be the most interesting place for a detail level study to see how the lecture hall could appear to be structurally independent.

structural analysis and conceptual light study models

Creating a preliminary structural diagram was the first step to understand the forces at work and convey that the initial structural design of the second floor is strong enough for not only the dead load of the lecture hall, but the various pieces of equipment for the lab. It would also indicate the importance of being able to transfer the loads to the large row of columns along the length of the building. The structure utilizes a load bearing concrete slab system with a steel framework to support the intricacies of the roof system.

Light study models show a partitioned double envelope design that selectively allows the passage of light. The program of the lecture hall requires control of the ambient light levels while the light is able to reach below creating the illusion of a uninterrupted passage between layers.

1/2 inch scale detail model

The roof deck is designed to be an intensive green roof system that functions as an extension of the upper “ground” level access provided by the bicycle path. The public is free to roam the roof deck and can access the cafe from both sides.

The edge of the auditorium wall was designed to disappear as closely as possible into the ground to give the illusion that the outer glass wall was an uninterrupted volume that pushes through the roof and terminates on the floor below. It is this glass wall that forms the light scoop that reflects light to the lower level to further the illusion.

plan detail and construction sequence 

The upper portion of the auditorium continues the double envelope system with interior glazing with and large vertical louvers on the exterior. Independently operable, they enable the ambient light from the outdoors to be filtered or completely shut out if needed. allowing natural light levels within the auditorium can be fine tuned to the specific program requirements. 

The construction sequence depicts the hierarchy of assemblies and demonstrates that the auditorium wall section is integrated into the structure of the building.

1/2 inch detail sections

In order to allow light to pass underneath the roof deck, a double wide wall design was used to keep the supporting structure from blocking a path for light to travel. The edge of the roof deck rests on a series of columns that make up the structure of the outer envelope. The other portion of the roof deck weight that surrounds the auditorium is transferred to the side of the auditorium wall and rests on the double-tee concrete slabs that span the width of the second floor.

All line drawings on this page are graphite on vellum


Graduate Design II : Fall 2009

University of Minnesota : Jennifer Yoos

comprehensive studio : spring 2010

University of Minnesota : Jennifer Victor Pechaty