Project Name: 079 "Duke Academic Complex"


Project Description


Square Footage
Lobby: 2,300
Theology Department: 52,000
Art Gallery: 3,400
Nursing and Art TBD
A local university acquired a 70,000 SF high-bay concrete tilt-up warehouse. The university wanted to convert this large, unsophisticated industrial building into an academic environment suitable for a graduate school of theology, a school of nursing, and an art department.
Budget / Construction Cost
9.7 Million Total
Unusual Characteristics
Many aspects of the existing warehouse were inconsistent with an academic atmosphere and with the emerging architectural context of newer additions to the campus that had been built immediately adjacent to the warehouse. Columns disruptive to the use of the space and other structural concerns posed a key challenge for the design team. Owing to the structural nature of the existing building, a very limited number of exterior penetrations would be possible without incurring excessive reinforcement costs.
Special Challenges
The construction of an event center within the complex of buildings brought into play fire regulations requiring construction of a 4-hour separation wall within the project warehouse prior to occupancy of the event center. Thus, the design team was tasked to locate the separation wall very early in the design process. Also, based upon the square footage, the fire regulations would require that separation walls divide the warehouse into four spaces, when only three departments were planned.
The design team took the creative approach of reducing the square footage of the warehouse by converting one corner of the building into a beautiful exterior public space with a more visible and appropriate façade and entry, marked by an elegantly curving wall and a fountain. To accomplish this, exterior concrete panels and a portion of the roof diaphragm were demolished, and a lobby space was designed directly behind the curving glass and concrete façade. From this lobby, two corridors provide access to interior departments and create a clear organizational hierarchy. The main corridor doubles as an art gallery utilizing perforated metal panels to display artwork. A donor room provides a focal point within this corridor. Extensive use of glass combined with a series of automatic fire doors allow unobstructed views into the building’s major public spaces. The design team built upon the industrial character of the original building by using a palette of interior finishes that set a contemporary tone for the project.

To accommodate the programmatic requirements of all three academic programs, the team determined that a second interior floor would be necessary. The design solution includes a two-story graduate library and integrated three-story mezzanine book stack system. In addition, the school of theology houses faculty offices, and support spaces. Interior 2-story, sky-lit wells provide natural light deep into the almost windowless facility.

Exterior landscaping softens public gathering spaces and reinforces way finding while providing a comfortable setting for social interaction. New sod and stepped seating surround a water feature to create a focus for the enlarged entry courtyard.