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April 6, 2011
Originally published in The Photo Issue

“How do you make a piece of architecture about architecture?” Mack Scogin asks. “That’s a heavy-duty objective.” Nevertheless, his firm, Mack Scogin Merrill Elam Architects, accepted the challenge, designing the consummate teaching tool for Ohio State University’s architecture school: a brand-new building.

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  The Ohio State University, Austin E. Knowlton School of Architecture's crown jewel: Knowlton Hall. The structure, completed in 2004, reunites and revitalizes discourse between the architecture, landscape architecture, and planning programs, which had been housed in two buildings five blocks apart.
    The Ohio State University, Austin E. Knowlton School of Architecture's crown jewel: Knowlton Hall. The structure, completed in 2004, reunites and revitalizes discourse between the architecture, landscape architecture, and planning programs, which had been housed in two buildings five blocks apart.
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  One of the goals of the new building was for it to be an example for the students of each of the three disciplines. For the urban planning students, the task was accomplished by appropriately inserting the building into the "urban configuration of campus," says Robert Livesey, a professor and the school's director during the building's design and construction.
    One of the goals of the new building was for it to be an example for the students of each of the three disciplines. For the urban planning students, the task was accomplished by appropriately inserting the building into the "urban configuration of campus," says Robert Livesey, a professor and the school's director during the building's design and construction.
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  For the architecture students, offering examples of good practices was much easier. "We have big spaces, little spaces, very long spaces, very short spaces, and very tall spaces," Livesey says. "When a student is thinking about a design, they can find some volume or comparable space in the building to look at."
    For the architecture students, offering examples of good practices was much easier. "We have big spaces, little spaces, very long spaces, very short spaces, and very tall spaces," Livesey says. "When a student is thinking about a design, they can find some volume or comparable space in the building to look at."
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  For better or worse, Livesey says, nearly all the furniture in the building is on wheels. Here, in the auditorium, partitions break up the space for end-of-quarter reviews.
    For better or worse, Livesey says, nearly all the furniture in the building is on wheels. Here, in the auditorium, partitions break up the space for end-of-quarter reviews.
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  The mobile furniture allows impromptu presentations and discussions throughout the building.
    The mobile furniture allows impromptu presentations and discussions throughout the building.
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  The stadium seats in the auditorium are frequently used as meeting and lunching spots. "We refer to the building as 'design education by distraction,'" Livesey says. "You can always see something going on."
    The stadium seats in the auditorium are frequently used as meeting and lunching spots. "We refer to the building as 'design education by distraction,'" Livesey says. "You can always see something going on."
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  On the lowest level of the building is the materials and fabrication workshop, open and available to all students.
    On the lowest level of the building is the materials and fabrication workshop, open and available to all students.
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  Photographer Ian Allen's visit to the school coincided with final reviews and thus frantic last-minute work. "A lot of the students were trying to clean their desks but I was more interested in the messes and how that human element coexists with those grand spaces," Allen says.
    Photographer Ian Allen's visit to the school coincided with final reviews and thus frantic last-minute work. "A lot of the students were trying to clean their desks but I was more interested in the messes and how that human element coexists with those grand spaces," Allen says.
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  At the heart of Knowlton Hall is the studio floor, outfitted with desks for nearly 500 and divided into quadrants. The northwest and southeast sections sit seven feet higher than the other two. “One giant floor would destroy this building,” Scogin says. “It’d no longer be studio spaces but a factory.”
    At the heart of Knowlton Hall is the studio floor, outfitted with desks for nearly 500 and divided into quadrants. The northwest and southeast sections sit seven feet higher than the other two. “One giant floor would destroy this building,” Scogin says. “It’d no longer be studio spaces but a factory.”
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  A challenge in the studio space was to provide ample pin-up space while at the same time offering loads of natural daylight. "We accomplished that through cuts into the building, swaths that are carved out to let light in," Scogin says.
    A challenge in the studio space was to provide ample pin-up space while at the same time offering loads of natural daylight. "We accomplished that through cuts into the building, swaths that are carved out to let light in," Scogin says.
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  Light also played a key role in the design of the library. "It's a glowing box at the top of the building," Scogin says. "It's a destination point."
    Light also played a key role in the design of the library. "It's a glowing box at the top of the building," Scogin says. "It's a destination point."
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  Books are stacked around the edge of the translucent box, created a dramatic, back-lit effect. Throughout the library and the building, chairs like Eero Aarnio’s Pastil (shown here) from the school’s Classic Furniture Collection (created with part of the project’s budget), act as everyday study seats for students and expose them to important design icons.
    Books are stacked around the edge of the translucent box, created a dramatic, back-lit effect. Throughout the library and the building, chairs like Eero Aarnio’s Pastil (shown here) from the school’s Classic Furniture Collection (created with part of the project’s budget), act as everyday study seats for students and expose them to important design icons.
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  A student reads in a space below the library while lounging in George Nelson's Coconut chair, positioned next to Harry Bertoia’s Diamond chair.
    A student reads in a space below the library while lounging in George Nelson's Coconut chair, positioned next to Harry Bertoia’s Diamond chair.
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  One of the important battles the school chose to fight was moving the architecture collection out of the main library and into the library in the new hall. Having won, the school puts the books proudly on display.
    One of the important battles the school chose to fight was moving the architecture collection out of the main library and into the library in the new hall. Having won, the school puts the books proudly on display.
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  Located off of the library, the roof garden provides students with "a reflective space," Livesey says. "It's a place for getting away, to go outside, to be out of the building but still in it at the same time." The How High the Moon chair by Shiro Kuramata for Idee and the Stones tables by Maya Lin for Knoll offer a quite outdoor space in which to sit.
    Located off of the library, the roof garden provides students with "a reflective space," Livesey says. "It's a place for getting away, to go outside, to be out of the building but still in it at the same time." The How High the Moon chair by Shiro Kuramata for Idee and the Stones tables by Maya Lin for Knoll offer a quite outdoor space in which to sit.
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  The airy entrance invites the rest of campus into the school. "In contrast to the college of engineering across the street that has a very small entrance, the porch encourages people to come in and explore the building," Livesey says.
    The airy entrance invites the rest of campus into the school. "In contrast to the college of engineering across the street that has a very small entrance, the porch encourages people to come in and explore the building," Livesey says.
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  The columns and marble were incorporated at the donor’s decree. He reportedly called the former “symbolic of the discipline” and said if the latter “was good enough for the Lincoln  Memorial, it was good enough for the school.”
    The columns and marble were incorporated at the donor’s decree. He reportedly called the former “symbolic of the discipline” and said if the latter “was good enough for the Lincoln Memorial, it was good enough for the school.”
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  The marble, however, was a tough sell with the architects. "It makes no sense in today's economy and with today's technology to build like that," Scogin says. "So we said, if you were going to do a building in marble today, how would you do it. We came up with the idea of marble shingles as a rain screen." The strategy let the team avoid using caulking, "because that's where marble always fails," Scogin says. They were also able to create a system where one broken single can easily be replaced.
    The marble, however, was a tough sell with the architects. "It makes no sense in today's economy and with today's technology to build like that," Scogin says. "So we said, if you were going to do a building in marble today, how would you do it. We came up with the idea of marble shingles as a rain screen." The strategy let the team avoid using caulking, "because that's where marble always fails," Scogin says. They were also able to create a system where one broken single can easily be replaced.
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  Due to a tight budget, the materials palette was severely limited and nearly entirely made up of concrete, glass, and steel. While used effectively and creatively, Scogin wishes there had been a few more options. "It would have been nice to have a couple moments of really fine materials and a few details that were more refined," he says.
    Due to a tight budget, the materials palette was severely limited and nearly entirely made up of concrete, glass, and steel. While used effectively and creatively, Scogin wishes there had been a few more options. "It would have been nice to have a couple moments of really fine materials and a few details that were more refined," he says.
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  The hall glows at night—not surprisingly as it's open 24 hours a day and used by students through all hours. The raised terrace is a favorite spot in the building as a result of its orientation toward the football stadium. "We have two of the premiere tailgating spaces on campus," Livesey says.
    The hall glows at night—not surprisingly as it's open 24 hours a day and used by students through all hours. The raised terrace is a favorite spot in the building as a result of its orientation toward the football stadium. "We have two of the premiere tailgating spaces on campus," Livesey says.
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  The Classic Furniture Collection offers learning opportunities—as well as extreme functionality. Here, a student crashes for a power nap on George Nelson's 1964 Sling sofa for Herman Miller.
    The Classic Furniture Collection offers learning opportunities—as well as extreme functionality. Here, a student crashes for a power nap on George Nelson's 1964 Sling sofa for Herman Miller.
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  Throughout the space are student installations. One of the second-year classes, in fact, requires each student to choose a location in the building and create a site-specific work, which has ranged from an inflatable object taking over a classroom to 3,000 plastic cups of water placed in the entry.
    Throughout the space are student installations. One of the second-year classes, in fact, requires each student to choose a location in the building and create a site-specific work, which has ranged from an inflatable object taking over a classroom to 3,000 plastic cups of water placed in the entry.
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  A view looking up from outside Knowlton Hall. “The exterior is an encyclopedia of landscape architecture, from a plaza to a porch to a terrace in the sky,” Scogin says.
    A view looking up from outside Knowlton Hall. “The exterior is an encyclopedia of landscape architecture, from a plaza to a porch to a terrace in the sky,” Scogin says.
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  Looking back down, a view toward the ground where picnics and welcome events are often held.
    Looking back down, a view toward the ground where picnics and welcome events are often held.
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  Knowlton Hall stands stately on campus, with the library light box sticking out of the top. The building is a statement about the school's attitude and mission in its construction: "We tried to think about what's the best way to teach design," Livesey says. The answer: leading by example.
    Knowlton Hall stands stately on campus, with the library light box sticking out of the top. The building is a statement about the school's attitude and mission in its construction: "We tried to think about what's the best way to teach design," Livesey says. The answer: leading by example.
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Austin E. Knowlton School of Architecture ‘s Knowlton Hall at The Ohio State University
The Ohio State University, Austin E. Knowlton School of Architecture's crown jewel: Knowlton Hall. The structure, completed in 2004, reunites and revitalizes discourse between the architecture, landscape architecture, and planning programs, which had been housed in two buildings five blocks apart.

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