The Young Designers Core (YDC) recently organized a visit to the Tufts University Science and Engineering Complex construction site. The building occupies a challenging site, hemmed in amongst the oldest building on campus – Anderson, Robinson and Bromfield-Pearson. Since the new building’s structural work and the majority of the exterior work have been completed, we were able to get a clear sense of how the new building negotiates the new and existing identity of the site.
The all-glass curtainwall façade – ever so smooth with suppressed SSG joints – is often a trite symbol of a fancy new building; bland, yet inappropriate. In theory, the seamlessly articulated 450 square foot of reflective glass wall should stick out like a sore thumb, among the ornate, 1900’s brick construction of the surroundings. But it doesn’t. The building has an ethereal presence on the site, neither lacking in identity nor overpowering that of the context. Depending on the light – especially on an overcast day – the building nearly disappears, leaving only the reflections of the landscape and neighboring buildings. (See picture above for the amazing moment when the façade reflection completes the Bromfield-Pearson Hall.)
The careful negotiation between the existing and the new continues inside, in terms of space, structure and systems. The interior fit-out of the SEC building is still ongoing, so we were able to take a peek at the exposed structure and systems, and the fascinating relationships between the old and the new.
From the L-shaped atrium sandwiched between Robinson Hall and the new SEC, we saw a beautifully preserved exterior façade of Robinson Hall. Thanks to the skybridge, Robinson Hall’s ornate terracotta detailing at the top floor is easier to observe! Once the interior façade of the SEC is completed, the enclosed atrium will be another fascinating moment of intersection between the existing and the building to be completed.
Interior demolition of Robinson Hall is substantially complete, leaving only the structural walls and systems in place. Idiosyncratic brick patchwork allowed us to trace the building’s history of transformation, as we saw the new auditorium and steel structural additions being put in to place.
Tufts University Science and Engineering Complex is a unique project that provides not only a contemporary science building, but also one that is aware of and sensitive to its historical, visual and programmatic context.