Carnegie Mellon Selects Architectural Firm for New Gates Center for Computer Science
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Carnegie Mellon Selects Architectural Firm for New Gates Center for Computer Science

Carnegie Mellon University has selected Mack Scogin Merrill Elam Architects of Atlanta to design its Gates Center for Computer Science, a new campus facility for which construction is expected to begin in the fall of 2006.

The Gates Center for Computer Science, made possible by a $20 million lead gift from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, will enable the university to broaden its leadership in computer science by providing more space to nurture important ongoing and new endeavors. The building will bring a range of computer science activities together under one roof and foster more of the interdisciplinary teaching and research breakthroughs for which the university is famous.

"This building will fulfill one of the most critical needs of the School of Computer Science—space," said Randal E. Bryant, dean of the School of Computer Science. "The new Gates Center for Computer Science will enable us to provide more space for our expanding number of graduate students, help with classroom scheduling and improve the quality of lab space we can offer new faculty. This space will also give us the room we need to continue to move forward as we seek to deepen our work on the theory and design of computers and broaden the ways computers can improve the lives of people worldwide."

"The Gates Center will not only be a landmark for our School of Computer Science, but it will be a seminal building for the campus as a whole in fulfilling our master plan," said Carnegie Mellon Provost and Senior Vice President Mark S. Kamlet. "The Gates Center and its landscaping, along with other building projects associated with it, will transform the West Campus much as the buildings from the mid-1980's through 2005 have transformed the East Campus. It should also serve to better link these two parts of campus."

The Gates Center will be located in the space between Cyert Hall, Newell-Simon Hall, Doherty Hall and the Purnell Center for the Arts in the western part of campus. It will be part of a larger project to renovate West Campus, which will include replacing surface parking with underground parking and creating new green spaces and pathways.

Mack Scogin Merrill Elam Architects has earned several national Awards of Excellence from the American Institute of Architects. The principals of the firm received the 1995 Academy Award in Architecture from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the 1996 Chrysler Award for Innovation in Design. Their design of the Knowlton School of Architecture at The Ohio State University was a feature story in the May issue of Architecture Record.

Mack Scogin Merrill Elam Architects' design of the Knowlton School of Architecture at The Ohio State University demonstrated a brilliant use of interior spaces to foster collaboration, a characteristic that impressed Carnegie Mellon's selection committee. Photo by Timothy Hursley

"It is clear to us that there is a unique culture of intellectual generosity at Carnegie Mellon University. It is a characteristic of the School of Computer Science that has served to bring great distinction to its program for many years," said Mack Scogin and Merrill Elam. "The reinforcement of this culture of collective curiosity and openness as the school grows and evolves into its next form is at the very heart of this project. It is the one goal against which all other goals must be evaluated."

The firm also designed the Jean Gray Hargrove Music Library at the University of California at Berkeley, the Carol Campbell Graduate Engineering Center at Clemson University and the Wang Campus Center at Wellesley College. The group is led by Mack Scogin, the Kajima Adjunct Professor of Architecture at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. Scogin was chairman of the Department of Architecture at Harvard from 1990 to 1995.

Mack Scogin Merrill Elam was recommended by a selection committee chaired by Chris Gabriel, Carnegie Mellon's vice provost and chief technology officer. The committee included representatives from the Board of Trustees, the School of Computer Science (SCS) and the School of Architecture. More than 30 firms were reviewed.

"The committee was particularly impressed by Scogin-Elam's innovative design of the Knowlton School building at Ohio State," said Guy Blelloch, associate dean of planning for SCS and a member of the selection committee. "The building made brilliant use of the interior spaces to help foster collaboration and portray the personality of the school. These issues were very important to the computer science faculty on the committee. The committee was also impressed by the creative use of the limited site and the way the building integrated with its surroundings."

Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, which designed the Kraus Campo at Carnegie Mellon, has been selected as the landscape architect for the project. Founded in 1982, the firm has directed the design and construction of more than 300 landscapes for clients in the United States, Canada, France and Korea. The firm has received numerous awards, including a 2002 Places Design Award for the Allegheny Riverfront Park in Downtown Pittsburgh. Other projects include the master plan for Wellesley College, the Hoffman Residence in Dallas, Texas, and Teardrop Park in Manhattan's Battery Park City.

Gensler and local architects EDGE Studio will also be involved in the design.

Four existing structures will be razed to accommodate the new Gates Center. They are the old student center at 4902 Forbes Avenue, the campus printing and publications building, the planetary robotics building and a set of garages between Newell-Simon and Hamburg halls.

Bruce Gerson
September 8, 2005

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