CK-Architecture Designed Robert H. Timme Architectural Research Center at the University of Southern California Dedicated Today

Open Sky and Flexible Space

at University of Southern California Architecture School

--The Robert H. Timme FAIA Architectural Research Center

creates indoor outdoor learning community--

October 12, 2007, Los Angeles, Calif.,---Christoph Kapeller, AIA and CK Architecture are pleased to announce the completion of the Robert H. Timme, FAIA Graduate Research Center at the University of Southern California. The 23,000 square foot addition comes in the form of a third floor on top of the existing Hurst and Killingsworth-designed Watt Hall. Open, flexible space, blue sky and fresh air mark the new space which has been designed to provide a strong identity for the school as well as maximum flexibility and adaptability to future requirements. Completed on the heels of Qingyun Ma’s arrival as Dean of the USC School of Architecture, the addition provides an identifiable center to the architecture school, which previously shared two buildings.

The design consists of three major zones, each wrapping around the other’s perimeter, starting with the most public zone at the center—the atrium—and becoming increasingly private toward the perimeter of the building.

The central atrium space cohesively connects the new floor with the floors below and provides light and air for the previously dark second floor hallways. This tall atrium space forms the physical heart of the school, generating a strong identity for the entire building. It serves as entry, review space and forum for lectures and informal talks.

Wrapping around the central atrium space, the open studio zone is designed to be the most flexible of the addition, providing a “plug and play” learning and research environment. The 16-foot floor to ceiling height, in combination with a solid row of clerestory windows and the additional light from the central atrium, creates a light, airy and welcoming environment for short and long periods of study. The roof overhang above the clerestory windows was developed with intensive lighting simulation in order to prevent glare in a heavily computer oriented studio environment. Floor access points in strategic locations allow data and power to be distributed for flexible furniture layout alternatives.

At the perimeter, the new floor becomes increasingly porous. A ten-foot zone houses a multitude of private and semi-private uses. There, pairs of faculty/research offices alternate with terrace gardens open to the sky. Floor to ceiling storefronts between studios and sky gardens provide visual communication and additional daylight for the studio spaces. To reach the offices, one must enter through one of the gardens, which are screened at the building’s perimeter to serve as planting surface and to provide additional safety beyond the railings.

While the offices are reserved for individuals, the open gardens form an ideal meeting place for students and faculty. The four corner suites which serve as seminar rooms are three times the size of the individual offices. They also provide headquarters for the four graduate programs: Architecture, Building Sciences, Landscape and Historic Preservation.

The perimeter studio wall, facing the faculty and research offices, is conceived as a presentation wall and is lit by a continuous row of wall washers. The general lighting level at night is provided by metal halide ceiling washers mounted to the main structural columns. The interior color palette is muted in order to allow a contrast between the architectural shell of the building and its colorful inhabitants and their work.

One of the main objectives of the design was to create an indoor-outdoor learning environment and to provide a maximum of natural ventilation to the building to highlight the temperate climate of Southern California. The perimeter offices feature cross ventilation in addition to individual split units, designed with the collaboration of IBE Consulting Engineers. Mechanical fans installed above the sky garden storefronts draw natural air into the studios during the mild seasons. The atrium clerestory features automated ventilation openings at its leeward side. These openings are designed to create airflow between the lower floor of the building, the studio fans and the atrium. Once the outside temperature reaches 75 degrees, the fans shut down and the central AC system kicks in.

At the building’s exterior, two stairs provide additional access to the third floor and enhance the social exchange within the courtyard between Watt Hall and Harris Hall. One stair leads from the ground floor to one of the connecting bridges while the other leads from the bridge to a generous public terrace at the new third floor. In addition to the main entrance through the central atrium space, the exterior stairs foster chance encounters and additional public space.

Accommodating faculty and students within four different areas of architectural emphasis as well as the USC administration—with an extremely limited budget of $8.2 million—Kapeller has demonstrated his ability to build consensus through the design process. Previously Kapeller earned international acclaim for the Alexandria Library in Egypt, as its design leader and project director for his Norway-based partnership, Snohetta. The $212 million, 970,000 square foot building won the Aga Khan Award for Architecture in 2004.

USC News: read here