Washington University, Physics Department Planning Study & Phased Implementation
St. Louis, Missouri
Christner is working with Washington University on planning, programming and conceptual design efforts to improve Compton Hall and Crow Hall; two historic academic and lab buildings housing the Physics Department. The buildings, while conjoined, do not align at each floor which has created challenges with accessibility, wayfinding, and connectivity amongst the department. Additionally, small ad hoc renovations over the years have resulted in buildings that are fragmented and lack a sense of arrival and a centralized gathering space. Faced with several retiring faculty members, the Physics Department had aspirations of improving their facilities to attract high-profile talent, better support collaborative activities, improve research and support spaces, and establish a sense of community and departmental identity through design.
Our efforts included assessing the existing physical conditions of the two buildings, creating a program of requirements for improving their functionality and their ability to serve the future needs of the department, testing the program with conceptual design options, studying the feasibility of partial demolition and expansion scenarios, and assessing the options against construction costs, schedule and the logistics involved in multi-stage sequencing of moving program and people to accommodate construction phases. Ultimately, with our client, we concluded that a concentrated area of extensive renovation - complimented with numerous smaller construction interventions would provide the significant transformation that the department needed, and would be within their budget and schedule.
Our study created a department master plan that clarifies the current unorganized distribution of departmental spaces into larger clusters. This realignment of space will better support the department’s research and teaching agendas, and will free up space for the creation of a collaborative atrium at the focal point of the two buildings. Small interventions in the historic façades of both buildings will put the collaborative atrium on display and increase the amount of daylight entering each building.