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Ahead of Its Class

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“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.  Photo by: Ian Allen
    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.

    Photo by: Ian Allen

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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.  Photo by: Ian Allen
    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.

    Photo by: Ian Allen

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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."  Photo by: Ian Allen
    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."

    Photo by: Ian Allen

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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.  Photo by: Ian Allen
    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.

    Photo by: Ian Allen

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  The mobile furniture allows impromptu presentations and discussions throughout the building.  Photo by: Ian Allen
    The mobile furniture allows impromptu presentations and discussions throughout the building.

    Photo by: Ian Allen

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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."  Photo by: Ian Allen
    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."

    Photo by: Ian Allen

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  On the lowest level of the building is the materials and fabrication workshop, open and available to all students.  Photo by: Ian Allen
    On the lowest level of the building is the materials and fabrication workshop, open and available to all students.

    Photo by: Ian Allen

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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.  Photo by: Ian Allen
    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.

    Photo by: Ian Allen

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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.”  Photo by: Ian Allen
    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.”

    Photo by: Ian Allen

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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.  Photo by: Ian Allen
    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.

    Photo by: Ian Allen

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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."  Photo by: Ian Allen
    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."

    Photo by: Ian Allen

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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.  Photo by: Ian Allen
    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.

    Photo by: Ian Allen

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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.  Photo by: Ian Allen
    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.

    Photo by: Ian Allen

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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.  Photo by: Ian Allen
    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.

    Photo by: Ian Allen

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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.  Photo by: Ian Allen
    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.

    Photo by: Ian Allen

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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.  Photo by: Ian Allen
    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.

    Photo by: Ian Allen

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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.”  Photo by: Ian Allen
    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.”

    Photo by: Ian Allen

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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.  Photo by: Ian Allen
    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.

    Photo by: Ian Allen

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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.  Photo by: Ian Allen
    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.

    Photo by: Ian Allen

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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.  Photo by: Ian Allen
    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.

    Photo by: Ian Allen

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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.  Photo by: Ian Allen
    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.

    Photo by: Ian Allen

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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.  Photo by: Ian Allen
    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.

    Photo by: Ian Allen

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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.  Photo by: Ian Allen
    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.

    Photo by: Ian Allen

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  Looking back down, a view toward the ground where picnics and welcome events are often held.  Photo by: Ian Allen
    Looking back down, a view toward the ground where picnics and welcome events are often held.

    Photo by: Ian Allen

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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.  Photo by: Ian Allen
    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.

    Photo by: Ian Allen

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