Site: Existing building with a 50-foot-high central volume on the Georgia Institute of Technology campus in Atlanta, joined to other existing buildings to the north and south.

Program: Architecture school expansion totaling 31,698 square feet to keep pace with increasing enrollment in graduate studies. Included are studio space, galleries, offices, classrooms, and research labs. The high-bay space offers opportunity for increased large-scale material research and experimentation. The project was nearing its January completion when the jury met.

Solution: The original Hinman Research Building, which opened in 1939, was the first of several structures designed for Georgia Tech by Paul M. Heffernan, director of the architecture school from 1956 to 1976, who played a key role in introducing Bauhaus-influenced functionalism to the curriculum and to the campus. With its high central bay, illuminated by clerestory windows, the building had long served the schools of engineering and earth sciences as a center for full-scale research and prototyping.

The renovation had to maintain the ideals of Heffernan’s building as a pedagogical example, yet accommodate additional programmed space and meet current building standards. Besides the high-bay volume, the space to be occupied by the school includes flanking bands of more conventional two-story spaces.

Lord, Aeck & Sargent and Office dA’s essential approach was to preserve the integrity of the high bay by literally hanging their interventions within it. The massive gantry crane that previously carried materials and assemblages through the space was reused to support a suspended “crib” that can serve studio or student-lounge functions and is linked by a bridge to adjacent second-floor studios.

The crib floor is constructed of profiled T-beams suspended on 5/8-inch-diameter steel rods. The crib’s structural efficiency, the architects say, “serves as a pedagogical example of innovation during a time … [of] shrinking budgets and increasing demands for environmental responsibility.” Juror Lisa Iwamoto observed, “I love that everything is hanging. I think that it was a really smart decision.” 

A stair linking the crib to the floor below is supported on a single beam that appears to peel off from its floor system. A steel-cable mesh provides safety enclosure with ample transparency. Elsewhere in the high-bay space, a spiral stair to second-floor galleries and studios consists of a single steel plate wrapped around a column; although only its mesh enclosure is supported from above, the stairway sustains the theme of suspension.

With its entire floor area left open, the high bay is adaptable as a setting for design studios, lectures, movie screenings, parties, graduations, and large-scale prototypes and installations. A 60-foot stretch of guillotine door can be opened to an adjacent gallery for exhibitions or project reviews. Suspended tubular lights offer ambient studio lighting, with winch controls to adjust them for other events.

In order to allow repurposing of spaces, the team developed a system of movable tables and drawer units for the students. Simple construction of these components uses sustainably harvested birch plywood, which also appears on applied surfaces and in stairwell safety barriers throughout the project. Each student also has a fixed locker in which to store belongings. Juror Dan Rockhill praised the whole project as “very minimal, economical, intelligent.”

Project Credits

Client The Georgia Institute of Technology College of Architecture
Architect Lord, Aeck & Sargent (Atlanta) in collaboration with Office dA (Boston)—Jack Pyburn, FAIA (principal, Lord, Aeck & Sargent); Nader Tehrani (principal, Office dA); John Kisner, AIA (project manager, Lord, Aeck & Sargent); Daniel Gallagher (project manager, Office dA); Karen Gravel, AIA (project architect, Lord, Aeck & Sargent); Tom Beresford (project coordinator, Office dA); Tom Butler, Seth Hammonds, Jim Nicolow, AIA, Claire Oviatt, Cobb Quarles, Ben Ridderbos, Benjamin Scott, Jihan Stanford (design team, Lord, Aeck & Sargent); Remon Alberts, Marzouq A. Al-Mutairi, Yousif J. Alsaleem, Arthur Chang, Brandon Clifford, Jeff Dee, Sarah Dunbar, John Houser, Pepe Giner Ivars, Samuel Ray Jacobson, Harry Lowd, Jonathan Palazzolo (design team, Office dA)
Structural Engineer Uzun & Case Engineers—James Case, John Hutton
M/E/P/FP Engineer Eaton’s EMC Engineers—Douglas Gray, Chip Tabor
Cable Mesh Systems Officium Design Engineering—David Bradley, AIA
Concrete Repair and Rehabilitation Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates—Paul Gaudette
Civil Engineer Haines, Gipson & Associates—Robert McCann
Acoustics The Sextant Group—Brian Patrick
Size 31,698 square feet
Construction Cost $8.4 million