March 31, 2011

University Releases Gates Hall Design

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Correction appended

Preliminary designs for Gates Hall, a new $60 million computing and information sciences building, were released by the University on March 21. The building will be located across Campus Road from Barton Hall on the current site of the Grumman Squash Courts parking lot.

The only building project on campus to be funded without incurring additional debt, Gates Hall final designs are estimated to be completed by early 2012, said Dan Huttenlocher, dean of computing and information science.

“We’re currently one of the top-ranked departments in the [United States], which also means we’re among the top departments in the world … Having a new building will help to keep us competitive,” Prof. Joe Halpern, computer science, and chair of the department of computer science stated in an email.

In their new spaces within Gates Hall, each department will also be able to expand and grow as new areas and disciplines are explored, Halpern said.

Construction of the building is predicted to begin in March 2012, with an estimated opening three years from now, Huttenlocher said. He expressed optimism, however, that the project’s timeline will be compressed so that the building can be completed earlier than expected.

Currently in its second of four phases, the $60 million project will be primarily financed by a $25 million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation the University received in 2006.

The rest of the project will be financed through philanthropy and fundraising, which together constitute about a quarter of the total budget, and funds reallocated internally from within the University,  Huttenlocher said.

Also approximately a quarter of the project’s total budget,“these funds were reallocated from other construction projects that haven’t gone forward for one reason or another,” Huttenlocher said.

Working in collaboration with Pritzker-Prize winning architect Thom Mayne, the building committee has decided on a design which represents the information age and the future, Huttenlocher said.

The exterior of the building will consist of a layer of stainless steel, intended to project an image of a large, twenty-first century sculpture.

Although the committee considered continuity of the building’s design with other campus buildings, it does not want to reproduce an existing design, said John Keefe, the Gates Hall facilities services project director.

“We are looking for newer and more exciting [architectural designs] on campus. This will be different from every other campus building,” Keefe said.

In addition to the unique aesthetics of the building, the committee has focused on creating an interior that is both sustainable and conducive to student interaction, Huttenlocher said. Rather than following conventional designs, where offices and classrooms with solid walls line the perimeter of the building, Gates Hall will have more open spaces, wider hallways and more natural lighting, he added.

The committee also focused on sustainability efforts, Huttenlocher said, saying that increased natural lighting within the building will result in reduced use of artificial lighting. Additionally, holes within the stainless steel exterior will help regulate the air conditioning system, he said.

According to Huttenlocher, the design is also intended to create a more natural environment for movement within the building.

“[This design will] encourage people to walk, rather than use elevators, by using big open stairs. Glass inside and outside of the building will allow light to flow [to] help people’s mental health,” he said. “This also gives a sense of collective space for research.”

Prof. Fred Schneider, computer science, a representative from the department on the project committee, echoed Huttenlocher’s sentiment, saying that the building would allow for collaboration between his department and the information sciences department, which is currently located off of 301 College Avenue.

“There was always an intention for [the two departments] to collaborate. For space reasons [they have been] separated. This is the first time they’ll be together and will be able to take advantage of the close space,” Schneider said.

New facilities within the building will also allow for more opportunities for research, especially due to the availability of laboratories for undergraduate research — which currently do not exist, Schneider said.

“This is a good time to be designing and building buildings. We’re hoping that this can give us more attention from architects and contractors,” Huttenlocher said.

Correction: A previous version of this article contained several errors. Due to a reporting error, the article previously stated that Gates Hall would be built on the site of the Grumman Squash Courts. In fact, Gates Hall will be built on the parking lot west of the Grumman Squash Courts. Additionally, the article reported that Gates Hall architect Thom Mayne was a recipient of the Pulitzer Prize. In fact, Mayne is a recipient of the Pritzker Prize. The Sun regrets these errors.

Original Author: Cindy Huynh