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The University will break ground next fall on a sleek new chemistry building, pending approval by the regional planning board in the coming weeks.

The new, cutting-edge building will be funded largely by royalties from the sale of Alimta, a potent cancer drug developed by chemistry professor emeritus Edward Taylor and patented by the University, President Tilghman wrote to alumni last year.

The chemistry department has long wanted to vacate Hoyt Laboratory and the aging Frick Laboratory, its home since 1927. "The strenuous demands of modern technology on the infrastructure of a building have exhausted the capacity of Frick Laboratory to adapt to change," Tilghman wrote.

Faculty should be able to settle into their new labs and offices in the summer of 2010, senior project manager James Wallace said.

Wallace added that though the new building will be essentially the same size as the Frick/Hoyt complex — about 250,000 sq. ft. — it will have more usable space.

"There are less nooks and crannies and ... more available basement space for high-tech equipment that requires extremely low vibrations and low interference in its surroundings," he said.

Won't you be my neighbor?

The new chemistry building — to be built at the current site of the Armory — will further Tilghman's plan to create "academic neighborhoods" in engineering, social sciences, humanities, natural sciences and the creative and performing arts.

University administrators view the new building as an anchor for the natural sciences neighborhood south of Frist Campus Center along Washington Road. When complete, this area will encompass the labs, classrooms and offices for geology, chemistry, physics, genomics, molecular biology, neuroscience and psychology, plus the Lewis Science Library, which will open in 2007.

Frick, Hoyt and Green Hall — which will be vacated by the Department of Psychology — could, in turn, serve as an area for the expansion of the University's humanities neighborhood.

Architects plan to ensure that the buildings of the science neighborhood, bisected by Washington Road, remain connected. The most prominent connection will be an X-shaped, glass pedestrian bridge linking the Carl Icahn Laboratory, Jadwin Hall and the new buildings for chemistry and neuroscience/psychology.

Passageways and tunnels already run between Icahn and Guyot Hall, with connections to the Moffett, Schultz and Thomas laboratories. A new tunnel will extend from Icahn to the planned neuroscience/psychology complex, molecular biology professor David Tank said.

Wallace said that the new chemistry building will include a limited-access service tunnel to Jadwin Hall, intended mostly for deliveries.

"That isn't to say that some chemist might not go down to the tunnel and walk across on a snowy day," University architect Jon Hlafter GS '63 said.

A lab with a view

In 2005, the University selected the British firm Hopkins Architects to design the new chemistry building in collaboration with Payette Associates of Boston.

"They're a team working together," Wallace explained. "Hopkins ... is in the lead on the design and has a lot of experience in lab projects. [Payette] will deliver the documents contractually."

Past works by Hopkins, such as a new office for the United Kingdom Parliament, emphasize transparency, communal spaces and environmental sustainability.

"One of the themes in Hopkins' work is what's called expressed structure, where the structure of the building is not covered up but is visible," University Executive Vice President Mark Burstein said. "Instead of the way many architects build the facade hanging on the structure, the structure is the facade."

The building's design has evolved as the architect's vision and the chemistry faculty's "wish list" met with budget constraints, chemistry chair Robert Cava explained during a presentation in June.

Early plans, for instance, featured triangular "pods" projecting out toward Washington Road. The distinctive pods were scrapped in favor of a flat building face when they were deemed too expensive, Cava said.

The final concept design envisions a four-story building with a basement "topped by a mechanical penthouse," Wallace said.

"The east side and teaching labs are all collected on the ground level with access from an atrium," he added. "The atrium mediates between the labs and office space on the west side. Then that atrium will, as the collector of activity, have bridges connecting it at several levels."

Given its location between the developed campus and the wooded area surrounding Lake Carnegie, the new chemistry building "has been very explicitly designed to take advantage of what is a very beautiful natural setting," University Vice President and Secretary Bob Durkee '69 said.

The building will be highly transparent, with an exterior composed mainly of glass and the central atrium reaching from the ground floor to a skylit roof. "All of the offices will have views that are quite beautiful all seasons of the year," Hlafter said. "It's nice to be able to look out into the trees on the west side of the building. On the east side of the building, which faces the athletic fields, there is an interest in bringing in natural light, which eliminates some of the need for artificial light."

In addition to reaping sunlight from its largely glass exterior, the new chemistry building will feature a number of other "sustainable" features intended to minimize utility and maintenance costs and protect the nearby forest and lake ecosystem.

Efficient electrical, heating and ventilation systems are especially important to the University, since "a chemistry research building is probably one of the heaviest users of utilities on a campus," Burstein said.

Hopkins Architects is working with consultants from Arup — a leading engineering firm with experience in designing "green buildings" — to find other opportunities for sustainable design, Hlafter said.

Wallace said the firms are studying the viability of photovoltaics that "collect solar energy and use it as electrical power" and rainwater harvesting for reuse in flushing toilets.

Despite the extensive new construction, Hlafter added, "green space will be increased" on the current Armory site.

A look at the new building

The new chemistry building is being designed by Hopkins Architects, a British firm. Below are some distinctive features of the plans.

1. Skylit atrium connects labs on east side of the building with offices on the west side. The airy, four-story space is meant to foster collaboration and community.

2. Wooded stream valley leading into Lake Carnegie separates the building from Washington Road. Offices will have expansive views of this natural habitat.

3. State-of-the-art labs will replace cramped, outdated facilities in Frick and Hoyt. The labs will look out onto University athletic fields.

4. Mechanical penthouse above the fourth floor. Ventilation shafts and air-conditioning units will likely be located here.

5. Underground tunnel linking the chemistry building to the physics department in Jadwin Hall. Intended for bulk deliveries, but may also keep professors dry on a rainy day.

6. Faculty offices shown with individual balconies in this conceptual drawing.

7. Pedestrian bridge across Washington Road. Ted Zoli '88 and renowned Swiss architect Christian Menn designed this metal-and-glass span to increase safety and unite genomics, physics, chemistry, and neuroscience/psychology buildings.

8. Collection pools meant to provide sustainable stormwater management. They are engineered to retain stormwater rather than channeling it through pipes to locations elsewhere.

9. Glass exterior lined with solar shading to admit natural light without excessive glare. The glass is double and, in places, triple-glazed to prevent undesired heat loss or heat gain.

10. Expansive basement will house ultra-sensitive equipment that requires low vibrations and minimal interference.

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