The open atrium of this Architecture Building at the University of Florida’s College of Design, Construction, and Planning in Gainesville is arguably its defining feature. Unfortunately, the intrusion of water that migrates through it, which was never designed to occur (the building originally had plans for a canopy), has led to a plethora of maintenance and occupancy issues. Although views to the sky have become commonplace and any alternative proposed is considered incorrect/inappropriate, this opening presented serious life-safety hazards during rain events.
KMF Architects, along with Architect of Record Brooks + Scarpa, went through an exhaustive process “designing for designers” where multiple solutions were considered beyond the placement of the canopy. However, the cost impacts far exceeded the cost of a canopy; thus, a solution was sought that would balance remediation efforts and maintain a visible connection to the sky.
The opening itself is an irregular form—a combination of three trapezoids, which create interesting opportunities when designing a potential covering. The design team presented three categories of options: skylight systems, ETFE systems and solar arrays. ETFE solutions, using single or dual layers, became the preferred choice because they could provide daylight, rain coverage, wind-load criteria, self-cleaning performance, and insulated/passive cooling design options that were lightweight and could be supported by the existing structure.
Events, pin-ups and reviews now can happen in the atrium space during inclement weather. Day- lighting and passive cooling have been achieved and the user response has been tremendous. This simple, elegant solution seems as if it was always there.
PHOTOS: Brooks + Scarpa, KMF Architects
Architect of Record: Brooks + Scarpa
Metamorphosis Award Winner and Architect: KMF Architects
Structural Engineer: TLC Engineering Solutions
General Contractor: Stellar Construction Group
Canopy: Fluon ETFE Film from AGC Chemicals
Structural System: Birdair Inc.
Coating: Perma-Crete from PPG