Historical Photo Courtesy of the El Paso Public Library, Aultman Collection; Rendering at top right courtsey Jacobs Carter Burgess; Temple Photo courtesy UTEP.
teams have also been requested to introduce different roof designs. The COHS/SON has integrated a lung-go roof system, essentially a stacked double-gable roof. In Bhutan these are separated by a simple structural system to create a void allowing hot air to rise and exit thus naturally ventilating the building. In the case of the new educational building, a mechanical penthouse will be located between the roofs with air intakes strategically located between the eaves. On a different note, the introduction of new buildings into the dense campus setting has created a myriad of residual spaces which were previously left over as barren, uninviting or unused spaces. These are now integrated, although aligned more with Western design philosophies, as shaded public courtyards and plazas. Another building designed for the campus is the new $70.2-million Interdisciplinary Chemistry and Computer Science (shown at top right) complex designed by Kaplan McLaughlin Diaz Architects with Jacobs Carter Burgess. The massing of the 140,000 square feet of programmatic requirements was cleverly arranged to disguise the large scale of this building, yet it also incorporates a large public space for outdoor class lectures and events as a result of its placement in close proximity to an existing building. W hile Bhutanese courtyards are highly porous, allowing occupants in upper levels to interact with others in the public space, in this case a glass curtainwall creates high visibility between building occupants and pedestrians in the public space. The glazed walls are interrupted by three large interpretations of a gomang rabsel, projections that are akin to bay windows in Western architecture. In Bhutan they extend interior spaces and oftentimes are used only by
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monks for meditation. In the Interdisciplinary Chemistry and Computer Science facility, they will house informal “collision” spaces for the interaction of scientists, researchers, faculty, and students. These will be clad in a combination of cream-colored stucco and brightly painted metal panels. Their projection into the volume of the courtyard space will add a visual complexity not common to their Bhutanese counterparts but will provide the sense of enclosure required for public activities. The regular use of and juxtaposition of glazed curtainwall against opaque walls not only creates an inviting gesture for students and faculty but also imitates the wooden columns and rails of the Bhutanese courtyard loggias. Moreover, it will also be in keeping with the high-tech spirit of this new scientific research complex. A nother feature that acts as a modern deviation from the ancient architecture is the deliberate omission of roof structures over certain portions of the building. A preference for a low-sloped roof with a parapet enclosure topped by the addition of a kemar accentuated by a heavy cornice is introduced. Even though this type of building termination is more common to architecture of this Southwest region, the change results in a pleasing composition that is perhaps somewhat more contextual in this area of the world. With these new architectural interventions, UTEP is taking the first steps toward expanding its campus with buildings that still respect the university’s Bhutanese antecedents but are designed with a modern approach toward function and regional appropriateness. Ed Soltero, AIA, is a Texas Architect contributing editor and the director of UTEP’s Office of Planning and Construction.
Direct from Bhutan While some architects look askance at the seemingly strange importation of a foreign style onto the UTEP campus, the Bhutanese apparently are pleased that their architectural idiom has been incorporated into modern American buildings. During a recent visit to El Paso, His Royal Highness Prince Jigyel Ugyen Wangchuk of Bhutan cheerfully emphasized that the style was quite harmonious with the Franklin Mountains that hover over El Paso like the Himalayas that surround his tiny kingdom. UTEP’s understanding of Bhutanese architecture, design elements, and construction joinery techniques will soon be further abetted by a gift from the Kingdom of Bhutan—a hand-carved wooden lhakang (temple) that will be erected on the campus in the near future. This exquisite architectural heirloom (shown above on display in Washington, D.C.) will give UTEP staff a more thorough understanding of the architecture of Bhutan.
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