November 2, 2007
  Small Liberal Arts College Quietly Amassing Superlative Design
Rafael Viñoly Architects adds to Bard College’s architectural repertoire

by Heather Livingston
Contributing Editor

Summary: Located in the hamlet of Annandale-on-Hudson, N.Y., Bard College quickly is gaining a reputation for creating a world-class campus. Boasting historic designs by Alexander Jackson Davis, the college’s recent additions include facilities designed by Centerbrook; Frank Gehry; and Simon, Martin-Vegue, Winkelstein Moris. The newest sonnet in Bard’s folio is the Gabrielle H. Reem and Herbert J. Kayden Center for Science and Computation, designed by Rafael Viñoly, FAIA.

Bard primarily is known as a liberal arts school, but Viñoly says the college is working to increase integration of sciences into its curriculum. “Bard President Dr. [Leon] Botstein has a very keen interest in accomplishing this goal, so our project is more than just a simple lab or classroom building. It is a place that incorporates different functions into one structure, including classrooms that are very open to other scheduling and can serve different purposes,” explains Viñoly.

The first phase of the Reem and Kayden Center opened to the students and faculty on September 23. At 49,000 square feet, the Reem and Kayden Center provides space for the biology, computer science, and mathematics departments, with modern teaching and research laboratories, high-tech classrooms, and a 60-seat auditorium. Centrally located within the campus, the design solution for the center focused closely on site planning and spatial composition that encourages informal interaction among students and faculty. Conceived with special consideration of Bard’s extraordinary siting and topography, the gently curving
concrete-, glass-, and aluminum-clad structure is set low to the ground in a clearing and is cantilevered over the College Walk axis.

“Although we explored solutions that closely aligned the building with the College Walk, the central spine of the campus,” says Viñoly, “we collectively decided that it was more interesting to try to extend the College Walk and integrate it into a continuation of development to the south. It follows the natural contours of the site, and its curve is generated by the fluid character of the topography.”

Responsive to the environment
Viñoly explains that the Reem and Kayden Center is not referential to the traditional Collegiate Gothic architecture of Bard, but rather responsive to the environment. “It responds to the campus, perhaps not in a stylistic way, but clearly in setting the tone for its future development. It seems to me that it is much more integrated with what makes a campus so interesting, which in my view isn’t really the architecture, but the topography, landscaping, and the woods. It is more about the natural qualities of the place and the early 20th-century idea of what Collegiate Gothic is supposed to be,” he says.

The Reem and Kayden Center features glass exterior walls, a large atrium, and an open floor plan for multidisciplinary spaces. As flexibility was a key design strategy, Viñoly designed the lobby with four freestanding pods that are finished in copper, stainless steel, and zinc. The pods house an auditorium, two lecture rooms, and a seminar room, with common areas located between. Faculty offices cantilever above the lobby on the second floor and are accessible through an open corridor that overlooks the lobby and expands to study terraces over the pods.

The building’s central spine contains the vertical circulation, support spaces, and M/E/P distribution services. Vestibules pass through the spine from the lobby to the laboratories, which were designed for easy reconfiguration to accommodate new approaches and technologies. The laboratories are equipped with moveable benches and a customized bollard system that together provide flexible distribution of the infrastructure utilities necessary for advanced scientific study and research.

Unique distribution system
“Inside the laboratories, the key design imperative was flexibility, which led Rafael Viñoly Architects to design a unique bollard system that provides utility services to the laboratory workstations,” explains Project Director David Rolland, AIA. “While the typical bollard is a hollow structure, allowing conduits to be fed through it from the floor or ceiling to the lab bench, the custom-designed bollard is the conduit: an aluminum extrusion with continuous cavities that run its length, each supplying a different utility. A grid of services runs beneath the laboratory floor and is connected to whips and quick disconnects at the base of each bollard. These can then be unplugged and relocated to any floor-box utility connection in any lab, ensuring flexibility and quick reconfiguration that can be easily performed by college staff.”

Rolland notes that Rafael Viñoly Architects developed this bollard system with manufacturer Tisi Corporation, which helped solve key engineering issues involved in mounting the bollards to the floor and ensuring that they could be adjusted to accommodate construction tolerances, enabling proper alignment with the adjustable-height laboratory benches. Rolland continues, “The benches themselves are supported on C-frame legs that allow cabinets to be inserted underneath the worktables into spaces that would otherwise be occupied by table legs. In turn, researchers have more room to work, and the lab space feels more open and inviting.”

For sustainability measures, Phase One of the Reem and Kayden Center incorporated 100 percent geothermal heating and cooling, a heat-recovery exhaust system, and high-performance glass and daylight sensors. According to Rolland, Phase Two also uses an energy efficient enthalpy wheel to provide reheating using heat recovered from the exhaust air at the roof top unit. This phase, a 20,000-square-foot chemistry extension, already is under construction and will continue the formal extrusion and building organization to the south, strengthening and enhancing the project’s initial concept.

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