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Home / Top Projects of 2011 / Out in the open: Marquette University Engineering Hall

Out in the open: Marquette University Engineering Hall

Photo submitted by Canton Photography

Marquette University Engineering Hall highlights innovation

Photo submitted by Canton Photography

The development of a new hall for Marquette University’s College of Engineering offered a unique test of Newton’s laws of motion, velocity and pressure.

The university in 2005 began planning a much more ambitious engineering center with twice the price tag. Marquette’s engineering college had not expanded since 1977 and, during that time, had added a fourth department and many students spread across four campus buildings.

Early designs called for a 250,000-square-foot department hub latched onto an open area with labs and the latest tools instead of traditional classrooms.

But before the university could pick up speed raising money for the project, Marquette ran into an immovable object: a tanking economy.

That pressured the university to rethink its plan and switch to a $50 million, 115,000-square-foot glass building, said Marquette architect Tom Ganey, the project team leader.

“We focused on it being flexible and open,” he said, “so that future generations can adapt the building to their needs.”

The new building features classrooms interwoven with laboratories, including a two-story material testing lab with an overhead crane and a loading dock. Another lab has sanding and welding supplies for large projects such as experimental vehicles.

The majority of the floor coverings were removed and exposed ceilings give views of the pipes that keep the structure functioning. The building includes touches of the Gothic elements found elsewhere on campus, but the hall is encased in glass, bringing light into the building.

Annika Schuller-Rach, associate project manager with The Opus Group and a Marquette civil engineering graduate, said the openness of the design required daily discussions with tradespeople at the site to make sure they understood the goal of the building’s atypical specs.

Benjamin Baenen, Opus Group project manager, said his team has rarely done so many dimensional models to ensure a vision remains intact during a design-build construction schedule.

“It actually went much farther than most in the design phase to make sure everything was just right,” he said, “everything that was exposed had an organizational structure to it.”

The first tinkerers and testers took to the labs of the new hall in August, but, as Newton’s laws might have predicted, another possibility is already in motion: turning adjacent green space into another $50 million department expansion.

— Justin Kern

Photo submitted by Canton Photography

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Location: Milwaukee

Submitting company: The Opus Group, Minnetonka, Minn.

Design/builder: The Opus Group

Architects: Opus AE Group Inc., Minnetonka, Minn; HGA Architects and Engineers, Milwaukee

Engineers: Opus AE Group Inc.; Kapur & Associates Inc., Milwaukee (site design)

Owner: Marquette University, Milwaukee

Project size: 115,000 square feet

Project cost: $50 million

Start date: March 15, 2010

Completion date: Dec. 30, 2011

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