Perspectives in Architecture: Georgia Tech campus design helped state to compete

The Georgia School of Technology started classes on campus at Tech Tower in October 1888 with 85 mechanical engineering students. Bruce & Morgan, Georgia’s leading architectural firm in the late 19th century, designed the Victorian-style, red brick four-story building with a seven-story tower on the nine-acre campus, then at the northern edge of Atlanta city limits. This first academic building at Georgia Tech represented the Georgia General Assembly’s effort for the state to compete against the North by training students to advance Georgia from an agricultural to an industrial economy. Architects would later employ variations of red brick on the exterior face of future campus projects.

With support from industry and government-sponsored research, the university greatly expanded its degree offerings, student population, campus size, and facilities by the next mid-century. Renamed in 1948 to reflect the school’s emphasis on technological and scientific research, the Georgia Institute of Technology included approximately sixty-five buildings on 153 acres for a student enrollment of nearly 6,700 students by 1960. Several of the campus buildings were designed by architects, who were also Georgia Tech professors, including Hinman Research Building by P. M. Hefferman and the East Architecture Building by Hefferman, J. Hubert “Doc” Gailey, and Harold Bush Brown.

Clough Undergraduate Learning Center

Twenty-five years ago, G. Wayne Clough became the first Georgia Tech alumnus to serve as the President of the Institute. The completion of Technology Square, a five-building complex flanked with stunning courtyards by Atlanta-based Thompson Ventulett & Stainback (now tvsdesign), marked the school’s daring expansion in 2003 across the Downtown Connector under Clough’s leadership. Named for the former President, the Clough Undergraduate Learning Commons by the Philadelphia-based Bohlin Cywinski Jackson in partnership with the Facility Design Group transformed a surface parking lot in the heart of the school in 2011 into a 24/7 center of activity, now serving approximately 33,000 students on the 400-acre campus.

Kendeda Building (Courtesy of Georgia Tech)

When certified by the strict guidelines of the Living Building Challenge, The Kendeda Building for Innovative Sustainable Design by Seattle-based The Miller Hull Partnership in collaboration with Atlanta-based Lord Aeck Sargent will be recognized as one of the most environmentally advanced education and research buildings in the Southeast. Gary Jelin, AIA, Associate Director of Design Services at Georgia Tech, observes, “As the country deals with environmental challenges, we are excited to educate architects, engineers, property owners, and other stakeholders about solution strategies with the advanced environmental building design, construction, and use of the Kendeda Building.” The bold vision for campus buildings as centers for innovation, embodied with the opening of Tech Tower over a century ago, continue with Georgia Tech leadership and design teams today.

 

Melody L. Harclerode, FAIA promotes significant natural, historical, and cultural sites as a non-profit leader, architect, and writer.

 

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