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University of Tennessee, Knoxville

Strong Hall Science Laboratory Building

the backstory

The new Strong Hall Science Laboratory Building at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville is at the nexus of history and science innovation. The 1926 Strong Hall dormitory and 1875 Gardener’s Cottage were preserved and married to the 268,000 GSF state-of-the-art facility, forming the iconic “Home of the Sciences: Earth, Life, and Time.” This building of grandeur, sited atop a sloping hill, is a symbolic gateway to the expanding University campus and science programs. Home to chemistry, biology, anthropology, and earth and planetary sciences programs, the 8-story facility engenders a sense of community, supports collaboration, and encourages interdisciplinary and synergistic learning and research.

at-a-glance

TYPE:
New Building and Preservation
PRACTICE:
Architecture
Interior Design
Lab / Sim Planning
LOCATION:
Knoxville, TN
STATUS:
Completed 2017
SIZE:
268,000 GSF
INSIGHT

The university updated its master plan in 2011, and the process identified a deficit in general classroom, laboratory, and research space. The site of the vacant 1925 Sophronia Strong Hall was identified as an opportunity for a large and modern science class and laboratory facility.

SOLUTION

Celebrating and contrasting the old with the new, the Science Laboratory Building honors its historic context, while exclaiming its mission of providing an innovative science building and a symbolic gateway to an expanding university campus.   The design honors the rich history of the site by saving and renovating the historic Gardener’s cottage from 1875, as well as several key vestiges of the 1925 Strong Hall dormitory. True to the vision for the University of Tennessee campus, the new building style is predominantly Collegiate Gothic, designed to be an iconic “Home of the Sciences – Earth, Life, and Time” and an instant landmark within the campus district.

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A complex variety of site challenges demanded innovative solutions:

  • 45’ of vertical site slope necessitates campus entries on multiple levels

  • Revitalizes connection with an existing pedestrian bridge

  • Preservation of a dozen large oaks across the site

  • Integration of a large scale modern age facility with two smaller scale pre-1925 historic buildings

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Stepping gracefully down the sloped site toward the heart of the university, the building welcomes visitors on several levels. The atrium, spanning three-stories, presents strong visibility and connectivity to the lowest three floors of Strong Hall. The intermediate level aligns with the existing pedestrian bridge which spans Cumberland Avenue to the south. The daylit atrium serves several functional and symbolic needs: a gateway to campus, an organizing datum for the building, and collaboration zone.

The critical decision to site the majority of the building’s footprint on the western section of the site allows the preservation of a dozen old growth oak trees, generous green space, and ample natural light into the site.  From west to east, the building steps down in scale to integrate with the existing smaller scale buildings to make them feel at home.

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IMPACT

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