At the far end of Prospect Avenue, a complex of courtyards and modern architecture is rising from a historic site. The complex, the future Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment, seeks to introduce a new wave of architecture to campus, while the center’s design focuses on sustainability to demonstrate the University’s commitment to environmentalinitiatives.
In 2008, business executive Gerhard Andlinger ’52 donated $100 million for the creation of the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment (ACEE) within the School of Engineering and Applied Science, according to the ACEEwebsite. According to Mr. Andlinger’swebsite, Andlinger had previously donated $25 million in 2000, which led to the creation of the Andlinger Center for the Humanities in 2004.
In 2010, the plans for the Andlinger Center facility were developed by Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects, a New York City-based architecture firm. Encompassing 129,000 square feet of construction, the Andlinger Center complex began construction in 2012 and is scheduled to be completed in summer 2015.
The site of the future Andlinger Center has a rich history, and balancing the issue of preservation and the projected needs of the University became a concern for architects and stakeholders during its development.
In particular, the plans for the Andlinger Center’s construction necessitated the demolition of the former Osborn Clubhouse, an athletic training facility that was repurposed to be the Third World Center in 1971, renamed the Fields Center in 1995. The Fields Center relocated to its current location at 58 Prospect Avenue in 2009.
“[The Osborn Clubhouse] was one of the last really tangible links to that golden age of intercollegiate sports,” W. Barksdale Maynard ’88 said, referring to Princeton’s role as one of the founding institutions in American intercollegiate football. Maynard is a lecturer in the Art and Archaeology Department and author of “Princeton: America’s Campus.”
Along with prominent architects Robert Venturi GS ’50 and Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk ’72, Maynard supported the preservation of the former Osborn Clubhouse.According to University Architect Ron McCoy GS ’80, the opportunities provided by the new Andlinger Center outweighed the value of the preservation of the Osborn Clubhouse.
“In essence, the University since its beginning has grown by investing in new initiatives,” McCoy said. “Some of those have required one generation of buildings replacing an older generation of buildings. Today we look at Chancellor Green and East Pyne, and not a lot of people realize that that those buildings replaced other buildings.”
The complex will feature a lecture hall, a laboratory building, offices and research space, and will connect to Bowen Hall and the Engineering Quadrangle. Conforming to LEED Silver standards, the Andlinger Center’s design focuses on sustainability and its relationship with Princeton’s campus, especially through its three-floor design.
“By going down one level and then only going up one level, the building has a very intimate scale which again fits with the character of Princeton,” McCoy said. “Going down a level also wraps the building in the Earth and takes advantage of the cooling effect of the Earth."
Going underground also fit the needs of the laboratory, according to project architect Jonathan Reo.
“Another strong reason we are below grade is because the laboratory program needs to be at bedrock,” Reo said, noting that the sensitive instruments of the ACEE lab require the stability afforded by placing a building at bedrock.
The facades’ limited use of glass windows also supports efforts at sustainability.
“The judicious use of glass maximizes the experience of the building but also makes it an energy-efficient envelope,” McCoy said, while also stressing the high energy needs required for the laboratory’s clean rooms.
In addition to sustainability, the building seeks to foster conversations and community through its design of staircases as social spaces, complementing their utilitarian use.
“The stairs … are very inviting, and open up onto lobbies and public spaces. The stairs are very much part of the social fabric of the building,” McCoy said.
Even as the building strives for modern innovations, the design seeks to hark back to Princeton's history through its incorporation of gardens, visuals and historic architecture.According to Reo, the Andlinger Center will feature three gardens or courtyards integrated within the complex, a design element that pursues connection with other courtyards on campus.
“If you go into residence halls … you’ll find a similar feeling of passing through a building while still being inside a landscape,” Reo said.
McCoy highlighted the importance of building material, calling attention to the complex’s brick wall facade.
“This brick, which is on the one hand very much part of a contemporary design, also has an archaic quality,” McCoy said. “It really speaks to the tradition of masonry on campus.”
Within the building’s interior, the public corridors will feature a felt-fabric wall surface that depicts the sketches of scientists.
“They’ll be decorative but also tell a story of the history of discovery that is the world of science,” McCoy said.
As for the tension between preservation and looking to the future, it is worth noting that the historic McKim, Meade and White wall that surrounded the Osborn Clubhouse will frame the entry point to the Andlinger Center’s gardens.
“We wanted to use that wall and have it be the first moment of the building,” Reo said.
The Andlinger Center for Energy and Environment will begin to be occupied this summer andwill be ready for the fall 2015 semester.