Our firm led the design team for this renovation and modernization of two 1935 Works Progress Administration (WPA) buildings as part of a series of major modernizations on the campus. Since the project had to be completed before other projects could begin construction, the team had to plan within the constraints of an abbreviated timeframe for Design Development, DSA Approval and Construction. The conversion includes the removal of built-in lab tables and science equipment to create more flexible space for general classrooms, computer labs and office space.
The key challenge of the project involved the accessibility of the buildings. With each building having a non-compliant existing elevator, the path of travel between the elevators and existing accessible entrances on each floor was undesirably long and isolated. Structurally altering the 1930’s buildings to enlarge elevator hoistways would have required wholesale reconsideration of the building structural system. The design team generated an alternative strategy. The single-elevator-and-bridge solution is efficient and economical, as it concentrates a new, accessible building entrance and an exterior plaza at the end of a campus pedestrian axis. The bridge structure itself provides the cover for the first floor entries. On the second floor, steel trusses wrapped in polycarbonate panels provide protection from the harsher elements of the environment. This scheme is not only economical, but it also leverages existing spaces that weren’t previously being used, which demonstrates the creativity and value of the project.
The bridge design was constrained by and responsive to the shape of the adjoining building and the presence of underground utilities in the area of the bridge and elevator. The design team used these conditions allowing the ground plane to be leveraged as a gathering space between buildings, which previously had no real connection to usable outdoor space. The plaza below the bridge connects the two buildings and incorporates stairs, ramps, and seating into a newly activated space.