Carnegie Mellon's Gates and Hillman CentersReceive Major Architectural Award

Byron SpiceMonday, January 9, 2012

One of Nine International Projects Honored by American Institute of Architects

PITTSBURGH-Carnegie Mellon University's Gates Center for Computer Science and Hillman Center for Future-Generation Technologies have been recognized as one of nine projects worldwide to receive the 2012 American Institute of Architects (AIA) Honor Award for Architecture, the profession's highest recognition of works that exemplify excellence.

The Gates and Hillman centers, designed by Mack Scogin Merrill Elam Architects of Atlanta, Ga., have been home to four departments of Carnegie Mellon's School of Computer Science since construction was completed in 2009. The buildings also serve as a crossroads for the 143-acre campus, with five main entrances on three levels and two major pedestrian bridges.

"These buildings are visually stunning, but this recognition by the AIA is about more than just beauty," said Jared L. Cohon, Carnegie Mellon president. "The Gates and Hillman centers occupy a key site on our campus and serve to tie the community together as never before. Inside, their spaces foster our culture of collaboration, innovation and hard work. The AIA jurors understood this and we thank them for this award.

"We also want to thank our architects and all those who recognized those needs, embodied them, and worked to create this award-winning space," Cohon added.

The AIA's nine-member jury panel was chaired by Rod Kruse of BNIM Architects in Des Moines, Iowa.

"This project is scaled perfectly within an urban campus and within a uniquely difficult site," the AIA jurors said. The centers enclose 217,000 square feet of offices, classrooms and collaborative spaces in nine stories and straddle a terrain with variations in elevation of up to 75 feet. Additional site challenges included a large zone of subsurface rock and existing sewer lines that limited where construction could occur.

The centers' zinc exterior skin and distinctive window openings are unlike those of any other building on the CMU campus, which is dominated by yellow brick and the historical influence of architect Henry Hornbostel. Nevertheless, the jurors observed that the zinc skin and window openings "surprisingly relate beautifully to the campus fabric without being literal."

The jurors concluded, "Perhaps the most wonderful aspect of the project is a set of views and visual connections created by transparent interior glazing and non-reflective exterior glazing, as well as carefully placed and angled floor plates."

Design criteria established by a faculty-staff committee headed by Guy Belloch, professor of computer science, emphasized the importance of natural light for each of the 310 offices and for common spaces that support the university's culture of collaboration.

"The Gates Hillman project was successful because our academics knew what they wanted, our administration supported the transformative nature of the effort and architect Mack Scogin knew how to pull it all together," said Ralph Horgan, associate vice provost for Campus Design and Facility Development. "It is a great home for SCS and a fantastic addition to campus. The building only adds to the significant architectural heritage here at Carnegie Mellon."

The project was designed and built with attention to energy and water conservation and to sustainable practices. Last year, the Gates and Hillman centers were awarded LEED® certification at the Gold level established by the U.S. Green Building Council. PJ Dick of Pittsburgh was the general contractor.

The project more than doubled the amount of green space on the 5.6-acre site and includes five green roofs and a winter garden. Landscaping was designed by Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates of Brooklyn, N.Y., and Cambridge, Mass.

"The Gates and Hillman buildings have exceeded our wildest dreams," said Randal E. Bryant, dean of the School of Computer Science. "It is truly a pleasure to have a building that is both so visually interesting and highly functional. Our students and faculty enjoy working and learning there, and the entire campus has benefitted from the connectivity and green landscape it provides."

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Byron Spice | 412-268-9068 |