See all of the 2018 winners of the Studio Prize.
Studio Brief | Second-year master’s students at the University of Michigan were asked to plan a visitor center for the European Organization for Nuclear Research, known by its French acronym CERN, in Switzerland, which is planning a major expansion and renovation. Supported by grants from CERN, the students first explored the conceptual aspects of design within the context of scientific research and made site visits to the CERN campus, outside Geneva, before developing their individual projects.
Investigation | With some 16,000 scientists, CERN is one of the largest and most famous facilities of its kind in the world, but until now it has not been noted for its architecture, let alone for being open to visitors from outside the academic world. But plans for a significant expansion in the campus size—including a new, 100-kilometer particle accelerator—and increased public attention after the discovery of the Higgs boson make well-designed reception facilities for tourists a must.
CERN already had a relationship with the University of Michigan and one of its associate professors, Matias del Campo: He had been an artist in residence in 2016, and after his tenure there was complete, the center asked him to devise a studio to develop ideas for the proposed expansion.
Such a project was perfect for architecture students, says del Campo, who ran the studio with assistant professor Sandra Manninger. Not only did the center offer a wide mandate for the design, but the nature of its research gave students a lot to chew on. “Architectural issues connect to issues in physics, because both disciplines are trying to understand space and matter,” del Campo says.
The professors and CERN encouraged the students to design the visitor center to be more than just an exhibit space and a gift shop. In one example, the students behind the Wanderweg project devised a network of trails that drew visitors far beyond the campus itself and into the mountains around it, below which run, invisible from the surface, the current and future particle colliders. All three of the submitted projects have an intricately patterned quality to them—the result of the studio’s focus on reflecting the sophisticated, mathematical nature of the campus and its uses.
The site visits proved crucial, and led to projects that spoke to a deep understanding of the needs and ideas underlying the CERN effort—“not the kind of things you see in student work,” said juror Eric Owen Moss, FAIA.
Student Projects |
Westley Burger, Feier Lan, and Dongfang Xie came to the conclusion that the best way for visitors to grasp the mission of CERN is to understand both the science that has come before and the natural forces that the research seeks to investigate. In Wanderweg, a central visitor center is the jumping-off point for a 100-kilometer trail around the Future Circular Collider, with additional pathways diverging from each of the 12 collider points beneath the ground. Along this path through the Alps, visitors also see the remnants of past experimental infrastructure, housed in mid-scale structures.
Ominous Delineation: Precision and Ambiguity
Victor Dionisio, Xin Shen, and Shufan Zhang created a systematized geometric language for the design of their visitor center, which they then translated into volumes. These complex objects sit within the simple and precise form of a low bar in the landscape. The building is designed to be both relatable and to evoke new and unfamiliar sensory experiences, making visitors think about their relationship to architecture.
Ensemble Adorné: Finite Boundary and Infinite Patterns
Sung-Su Kim, Yongjoon Kim, and Nathan Wesseldyk looked to pattern as a means of understanding and conveying how multiple complex systems can be overlaid to find moments of interaction. But that analysis of pattern resulted in more than just the decorative scheme that adorns their center. It also serves as the basis for an organizational logic: that the growth of a pattern in plan over time—both at an urban and building scale—can respond to the spatial needs of CERN while maintaining a sense of continuity through the campus.
Studio Credits |
Course: The New Grand Tour—A New Visitors Center for CERN
School: University of Michigan, A. Alfred Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning
Level: M.Arch., with pre-professional degree, year two
Duration: 2017–2018 yearlong studio
Instructor: Matias del Campo (associate professor); Sandra Manninger (assistant professor)
Students: Westley Burger, Victor Dionisio, Sung-Su Kim, Yongjoon Kim, Feier Lan, Xin Shen, Dongfang Xie,
Nathan Wesseldyk, Shufan Zhang (submitted projects); Bob Allsop, Daniel Barrios, Ashish Bhandari, Kevin Bukowski, Stephanie Bunt, Benny Cruz, Allison Ford, Wei Wu
Techniques/Tools: Autodesk Maya; Unity; Rhinoceros 3D; Grasshopper; CNC milling; 3D printing; laser-cutting