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physics classes. It also served as an effective community outreach tool by bringing in grade-school students (as well as adults) onto campus for various presentations and programs. UTA officials saw the more prominent location of the new Chemistry & Physics Building as an opportunity to provide more a highly visible venue for such programs. The massing of the project was in many ways fixed by the constraints of the site. Because of the site’s location between UTA’s main library and student union, the new building had the potential to act as a barrier to pedestrians traveling between those two facilities. With this in mind, the designers saw a unique opportunity to put “science on display.” By re-imagining the enclosed atrium of the building as a public pass-through space, they ensured cross-campus traffic would not be interrupted.In addition, by filling the space with both digital and physical displays and by prominently locating the planetarium within the atrium, the department could essentially “advertise” the study of science to thousands of students each day. The basic diagram of the building can be understood as a glass atrium to the west with three lab modules arrayed to the east. Set within the atrium is a limestone cylinder that houses the 165-seat planetarium at its base and a conference room on its upper level. Expressing the planetarium’s idiosyncratic geometry resulted in two positive effects with impact that extends beyond the new building—first by providing a conspicuous form to what otherwise might have been an anonymous building, and second by aligning the cylinder with an existing roadway to create a formal axis that helps weave the project into the larger fabric of the campus. While the aesthetic consistency of the campus is admirable – due largely to the ubiquitous “UTA blend” orange brick that creates a coherent background texture – the overall sense of place is not particularly memorable and rarely is an iconic element introduced to establish a sense of hierarchy. As a result, the most compelling aspect of the Chemistry & Physics Building’s design may be the manner in which the planetarium program is rendered to create a campus landmark. Of course, the danger in introducing a standout building to a campus lacking such icons is creating a form that draws too much attention to itself. A building making “too much noise” is always more disruptive than one not making enough. The design team resolved this dilemma by creating a relatively quiet building that frames an iconic element whose formal qualities are explained both by the program contained within as well as its placement on campus.

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(preceding spread, left and right) Set above the planetarium’s cylindrical volume, a glass-walled conference room offers views inside and outside the building. The curved form introduces an iconic element to a campus lacking conspicuous landmarks. The university closed a connecting street that previously ran parallel to the building’s southern façade, creating a pedestrian plaza in front of the building. (this spread, left and right) The balcony outside the third-floor conference room attracts visitors from all over campus. The conference room presents a comfortable aerie for meetings.

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Texas Architect Jan/Feb 2008: Design for Education  

Texas Architect is the official publication of the Texas Society of Architects, each edition features recently completed projects and other...

Texas Architect Jan/Feb 2008: Design for Education  

Texas Architect is the official publication of the Texas Society of Architects, each edition features recently completed projects and other...