With an expanding student body, the University of Nebraska College of Architecture was at a crossroads. Needing to expand its facilities, it faced the prospect of either demolishing existing buildings or alternatively adding onto a complex of three buildings that date back to the 19th Century. Architecture Hall was built in 1891, the Law College in 1921, and the “Link” Building was completed in 1985 providing the historic complex with elevators, fire stairs, and a lobby. The newly proposed addition strategically adopts this infrastructure to preserve the integrity of this historic campus while offering maximum flexibility for added studio space, critique spaces, and the restoration of a historic auditorium.
The design renovates and adds to the existing building complex minimizing new construction and strategically integrating the “Link Building” to reduce new infrastructure. With the construction of the addition, we complete the “pinwheel” configuration that allows all phases of this complex to be interconnected, defining a central classroom courtyard. The project is also defined by a roof terrace and two covered terraces that are used for building large-scale installations as an extension of the exhibition space on the ground floor. The roof terrace is used for alumni events, football game festivities, and outdoor reviews. These outdoor spaces enhance existing campus connections and ameliorate the outdoor environment of the university.
Conceived entirely as a mass timber structure, drawing in wood resources from the region, the project is conscious about the use of naturally renewable resources, and a responsible farming of wood. Conceptualized as a pedagogical building, the spaces are laid out in a flexible manner to allow multiple spaces of learning, but also to serve as a didactic instrument: the exposure of wood, its structure, and all of its infrastructure allow for students and faculty alike to internalize the building as a learning lesson.
Additional sustainability aspects include native prairie plantings, low-flow fixtures, and occupancy sensors. The Kalwall facade system also adds to ambient lighting within-reducing the number of light fixtures needed.
The project is centered on the creation of new and renovated spaces through a major, new addition north of the existing complex. The project will add 14 new design studios and offer the first newly constructed program space for the college in nearly 40 years. A major renovation effort of the project will include a complete restoration and expansion of the original auditorium space to allow for larger hosted lectures within the college. To accommodate this work, the stacks attached to the Architecture Hall West building will be demolished, and the new linear four-story addition will be erected in its place. The elongated form will allow two primary points of connection across the four levels of the addition: one to the Architecture Hall West through the original stack connection, and then also from “The Link,” providing accessible connections across the many differing elevations. The program of the addition includes lower-level mechanical spaces and first-floor entry pre-function/lobby space. The second level includes a student lounge and new studio space, while the third floor established a larger, tiered crit space and studios adjacent to the 3rd floor “barn.” The addition is capped on the fourth level with a studio space connecting across from the highest level of the "Link" that serves “the attic” studios, as well as an outdoor terrace.
“We are excited about this highly anticipated, remodel and expansion project. With a 17% enrollment growth over the last 10 years, it has pushed us over building capacity. This project is essential for accommodating our enrollment goals, creating a contemporary learning environment to attract potential students, and providing our students with the best learning environment possible.” -Sharon Kuska, interim dean of the College of Architecture.
NADAAA is an architecture and urban design firm led by principal designer Nader Tehrani, winner of the American Academy of Arts and Letter’s 2020 Arnold W. Brunner Prize. Tehrani leads the studio with partner Arthur Chang, AIA who also leads the office’s fabrication workshop NADLAB. Based in Boston, NADAAA has evolved over three decades as a multi-disciplinary practice dedicated to bridging design disciplines; from landscape to urbanism, architecture to interiors, and industrial design to furniture. With an eye toward integrated thinking, we enter the discourse on technology, aesthetics, and building protocols as part of a holistic process. Rather than focus on typology, NADAAA’s portfolio is built on process, with examples of institutional, academic, housing, commercial, retail, and civic projects.