The Hinman Research Building at Georgia Tech houses cutting-edge architecture studios, office, exhibit, and event spaces.
The 35,000 square foot facility, designed in the late 1930s as an engineering research laboratory, is an historic example of early 20th century Modern style.
After serving for many decades for other purposes, the building saw a complete renovation and preservation effort in 2011. The repurposed building has received a number of awards from organizations that range from the American Institute of Architects to the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation.
Hinman was the first freestanding research facility on campus. Its design was created in 1939 by Georgia Tech professor P.M. Heffernan, an architect and later the director of the School of Architecture (1956-1976).
While today Hinman has become the flagship research building for the College of Architecture, its original purpose was to house the Georgia Tech Engineering Experiment Station [EES], the predecessor to the current Georgia Tech Research Institute.
Beginning in the 1930s, the Experiment Station was an invaluable research and development laboratory for the state of Georgia, acting primarily to conduct contract R&D for industry. With the onset of World War II, the Station took on more defense-related research, which as supplemented by much federally funded civilian research after the War.
As the years went on, Tech’s research needs outgrew the building, which remained in use as a machine shop.
The 35,000 square foot building consists of several levels of offices and corridors, dominated by a large, high central room. The central room is a dramatic space with good natural lighting and a factory-like feel, provided by exposed structural members, concrete surfaces, and the like.
The titles of research projects undertaken in the Hinman building in the early 1940s were mostly in-line with the State’s strengths in agriculture and textiles, while post-war research reflected a focus on high technology and defense.
The Experiment Station (and later the Georgia Tech Research Institute) spun off numerous commercial enterprises, most notably Scientific Atlanta, a maker of satellite communication and related electronics.
Rehabilitation and Re-Use
In the early 2000s, a proposal to transform the building into research space for Georgia Tech’s College of Architecture was met with great enthusiasm and a sincere effort to preserve the structure’s architectural integrity.
The Hinman building’s interior was reconceived within the context of sensitivity to its architecturally and historically significant features, resulting in a plan that could accommodate the needs of the College and communicate the relationships between the past and future of architectural education at Georgia Tech.
The new floor plan would provide flexibility of use and differentiate the activities on the former shop floor from those occurring above. The ground level was to be conceived as an expanse where a variety of spatial configurations are possible, such as a drafting hall, a place for large-scale installations, an auditorium, a critique room or a hall for the Beaux Arts Ball.
Yet the most striking attributes of the building would be suspended above:
- The high-bay structure still features its original gantry crane, from which a dramatic new mezzanine would be hung, re-purposing the crane and expanding the usable space of the building by 3,000 square feet. A new, monumental stair would connect the mezzanine to the floor of the high bay.
- A new, spiral staircase enclosed in a “sock” of expanded cable mesh would provide access to faculty offices in the building’s upper floor, activating the building’s southern wing.
- Custom-designed, retractable pendant lights would allow the high bay to be adapted for film screenings, large-scale model-building or other programmatic activities.
- A 40-foot-wide guillotine-type door, suspended from above, would provide added pinup space for reviews and exhibitions when closed, and when raised would reveal a large formal critique space that can double as a gallery.
Exterior features that were preserved would include Hinman’s steel windows, exposed, cast-in-place and pre-cast concrete, brick masonry, and distinctive entrances.
On a relatively limited budget of $9.5 million, the rehabilitation and adaptive reuse of the historic Hinman Research Building was accomplished in collaboration between Lord, Aeck & Sargent’s Historic Preservation Studio and Office, with the Beck Group as construction manager.
Funding came largely from the State of Georgia when, in May 2008, Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue signed into law a $6.4 million appropriation for the renovation. Remaining costs were covered in partnership with the Georgia Tech Office of the President, but private support was crucial to completing the project.
The Building Information Modeling (BIM) successfully used on this historic preservation adaptive reuse project exemplifies the high degree of collaboration between the architectural team and the construction manager.
The Beck Group converted the architect’s BIM model to a construction-level BIM model that incorporated laser scans of the space to seamlessly achieve the project design within the construction budget and schedule. In addition, Beck created intelligent models to support the design, fabrication and installation of architectural millwork.
Hinman was formally presented at a grand opening event March 30, 2011. The rehabilitated space includes graduate studios, computer labs, interdisciplinary research labs, high-fidelity simulation and planning labs, administrative offices, galleries and space for large-scale events.
According to lead designer Nader Tehrani, “the relationship of the new elements within the high-bay and historic framework is calibrated carefully: neither in mere subservience, nor in disrespect, but rather in a productive tension, the new giving added meaning to the old.”
“Hinman is the perfect union of the past, present and future of architectural research and education at Georgia Tech,” noted Alan Balfour, dean of the College of Architecture. “Certainly our students will benefit from a learning environment built with the very best practices in confident yet responsible design, interdisciplinary collaboration, and the most advanced construction technologies available.”
“Thoughtful conservation of the original materials and important interior and exterior features has preserved the integrity and legacy of Heffernan’s Bauhaus-influenced functionalism. In addition, the original concrete and steel construction was retrofitted to a LEED Gold standard of sustainability,” said Jack Pyburn, FAIA, Lord, Aeck & Sargent’s principal in charge of the project.
Recognition and Awards
Since its completion, the work on the Hinman building has captured top prizes includingInterior Design Magazine's 2011 Best of Year Award and ARCHITECT magazine’s venerable P/A (Progressive Architecture) Award Citation.
The full portfolio of commendations includes:
- Architect Magazine 2011 P/A (Progressive Architecture) Award Citation
- American Institute of Architects 2012 Committee on Arch for Education, Educational Facility Design Awards, Merit Award
- American Institute of Architects - New York Chapter Design Awards 2012, Honor Award, Interiors Category
- American Institute of Architects – Georgia Chapter, 2011 Design Awards Program, Honor Award
- Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation, 2012 Excellence in Rehabilitation Award
- Interior Design Magazine, 2011 Best of the Year Award - Domestic Education category
- Building Design & Construction Magazine 28th Annual Reconstruction Awards - Platinum Award
- University System of Georgia Sustainability Award
- American Institute of Steel Construction 2011 IDEAS2 Awards Program, National Certificate of Recognition
- Associated General Contractors of America - Georgia Branch, 2011 Build Georgia Award
- Construction Management Association of America - South Atlantic Chapter, 2011 Project Achievement Awards, Honor Award, Renovation/Modernization Category
- American Institute of Architects Committee on the Environment - Atlanta Chapter, Showcase Winner for the 2012 Greenprints Conference
- I.D. Magazine, 2011 Annual Design Review - Honorable Mention Environments Category