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HINMAN RESEARCH BUILDING in Atlanta, Georgia by NADAAA
February 9th, 2016 by Sanjay Gangal
Article source: NADAAA
During the middle of the last century, the College of Architecture at Georgia Tech was guided by the work and pedagogy of architect Paul M. Heffernan (director, 1956-75), who contributed to the establishment of a modern discourse based on Bauhaus-influenced functionalism. Heffernan also exerted a significant impact on the campus at-large, designing several modern buildings during the 1940s and 50s that constitute an enclave he labeled the “academic village.” The Hinman Research Building (1939) was the first of these to be built; it received major additions and renovations throughout the last century to accommodate changing needs.
The Hinman Research Building flexibly served the Schools of Engineering and Earth Sciences as a classroom facility and as a center for full-scale research, experimentation, and prototyping. At its core is an open, 50-foot tall industrial high-bay shed, which is illuminated by rows of large clerestory windows above and flanked to the north and south by office and classroom wings. Recently, the College of Architecture annexed the building for additional studio space and faculty research areas to keep pace with increasing enrollment in the graduate studies. The school viewed the building as a strategic opportunity to expand its curriculum with increased capacity for large-scale material research.
As architects responsible for the renovation of the Hinman Research Building, our team had to perform the seemingly antithetical duties of both preservationist and interventionist. Vested interests required that the building be rehabilitated in keeping with the ideals of Heffernan and the earlier school, in order that it serves as a pedagogical example. It was also required that this rehabilitation be brought up to current requirements as they pertain to current standards and building codes addressing its structure, life safety, accessibility, acoustics, and lighting features. The task presented a unique methodological question: how can we build on the past while also building for the future?
Of the various spaces within the building the high-bay offers the most flexible space within which many types of events can occur. A studio setting on a typical day, the space can be transformed into a site for lectures, movies, the beaux-arts ball, graduation, and large-scale installations. The ground is left open in order to serve all the needs of flexibility; with furnishings and equipment all on wheels, this is a space for daily, weekly and event based transformations.
For this reason, the most salient strategy of this project is to hang its main new interventions from the ceiling. Requirements for more studio space and a student lounge are accommodated in a proposed mezzanine– the “Crib”, designed to hang opportunistically from an existing industrial crane by a myriad thin steel members.
Light and lean, the “Crib” serves as a demonstrative example of innovation during a time characterized by shrinking budgets and increasing demands for environmental responsibility. An avatar for the project as a whole, the “Crib” represents a new practice for our field’s uncertain times.
The south wing is activated with a new spiral staircase—also slung from the truss above—linking new administrative offices with the student body. A 60-foot vertical lift door opens up the high-bay space to the south wing, and offers expanded pin-up spaces for reviews and exhibitions. A new array of suspended lights, controlled by winches, offer general lighting for the drafting hall while also facilitating for other events.
A general aesthetic emerges from these elements—a filigree of suspended cables and lineaments produce a middle ground for the lofty expanse of the high bay room. The ground is horizontal and flexible, while the sky vertically programmed and saturated. Efficient and strong, the combination yields an environment well-tailored to serve its future occupants.
Category: Research & Development Centre