Renovation will Preserve Integrity of Hinman Research Building

Project set for completion in January 2011.


Teri Nagel
College of Architecture
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Summary Sentence:

Project set for completion in January 2011.

Full Summary:

Atlanta firm Lord Aeck & Sargent with Office da of Boston designed the rehabilitation, which will add much needed office, research, gallery and studio space to the College of Architecture by early 2011.

  • Rendering of Hinman Research building Rendering of Hinman Research building

State appropriations jumpstarted the multi-million-dollar renovation of the 1939 Hinman Research Building. Atlanta firm Lord Aeck & Sargent with Office da of Boston designed the rehabilitation, which will add much needed office, research, gallery and studio space to the College of Architecture by early 2011.

The project offers the unique opportunity to explore the relationship between the history of the Georgia Tech’s campus and the future of the Georgia Tech College of Architecture (CoA). The building’s architect, P.M. Heffernan, was a pivotal figure in the development and stature of the CoA. The HRB embodies the modern design qualities he brought to the college. The HRB/CoA project provides an opportunity to preserve the meaning of the HRB and to use it to illuminate the CoA program. In doing so, the combination of the new and old can and will produce an exceptional spatial and functional richness.

Project Objectives: to rehabilitate, adapt and expand the capacity of the historically significant Hinman Building in a way that:
- recognizes, preserves and rehabilitates the features of the building that give it its character.
- satisfies the programmatic objectives of the College of Architecture and Georgia Tech.
- produces flexible and functional space that encourages interaction and collaboration for the College of Architecture.
- produces a thoughtful architectural insertion to accommodate the additional space requirements not accommodated in the existing floor area of the HRB.
- interprets the defining characteristics of the HRB in their treatment and relationship to the new features.

Building History
The Georgia Tech Engineering Experiment Station (EES) was founded in 1934 as an industrial complement to the system of Agricultural Experiment Stations in Georgia. The State Act Creating EES identified specific areas of research to be conducted including: transportation, road building, drainage, irrigation, flood protection, aeronautics, aerodynamics, fuels, lighting, heating, refrigeration, ventilation, sanitation and architecture.

The HRB was constructed in 1939 for a construction cost of $70,350 by Mion Construction Company of Atlanta. The WPA contributed $16,453 to project cost. W. Harry Vaughn was the first Director of Engineering Experiment Station and in 1940 became the Chief of Regional Products Research Division of TVA on 1 year leave of absence.

Early Research in the Hinman Building (1941) included:
- Viscose Rayon Process
- Utilization of Georgia Pecans
- Abilities of Textile Workers
- Cotton Drawing Processes
- Food Preservation Prospectus
- Research in Air Conditioning and Heating w/ American Society of Heating and Ventilating Engineers

Hinman Research Reported in 1951:
- Chemical Research
- Fundamental Battery Studies
- Fine Particles Studies
- Vegetable Oil Studies
- Coatings Studies
- Wood and Textile Research
- Television Research that may: permit the development of simplified television systems; provide improved clarity in standard television systems; and possibly allow three dimensional presentation of certain subject matter via television

Other Documented Research Projects:
- Built a Complete Viscose Rayon Facility where first rayon of Georgia pine pulp was produced
- Invented process for weaving fabric from domestic flax and flax blends
- Developed new paint primer for southern yellow pine
- Studies into the properties of abietic acid
- Studies of high quality brick produced from Georgia kaolin
- Developed the autogiro for use in the invention of the helicopter
- Secret WWII research including a high-selectivity amplifier and a rugged “mini-band” amplifier
- Discovery that electromagnetic waves would heat food, a forerunner of the technology required for the invention of the microwave oven
- Developed Dacron-Cotton blend
- Various electronics projects for the US Dept of Defense in the 1950s
- Scientific Atlanta was spun off from EES

Character Defining Features
Character defining features are those features that together give the HRB its significance. They are the qualities experienced when viewing and moving through the building. Based on the original drawings, above description, and the conditions on site, the following define the character of the building:

- Upper roof, gutter and downspouts
- Steel windows
- Exposed cast-in-place concrete
- Precast concrete
- Masonry
- Building entrances

- Volume of the High Bay
- Structural characteristics of the High Bay
- Floor trenches and inserts in High Bay
- High Bay balcony
- Entry corridor and windows for viewing into High Bay
- Structure of the Wings
- Original walls and wall construction
- Recessed metal wall standards in research labs and offices in Wings
- Details at interior of windows
- Stairs

Conceptual Strategies for Preservation
When the spatial requirements for a new use are compatible with the spatial characteristics of the historic structure, the best conditions exist for retaining historic features and satisfying the program most economically. Typically, the outcome of this approach is an exceptional user environment. After establishing the features that should and are to be preserved and rehabilitated, the issues of lighting levels, finishes, power and data distribution, HVAC systems, and furniture layout become paramount. There is significant potential to achieve modern standards while referencing historic characteristics. The insertion of systems, if not concealed, can follow the approach of being sensitive to and respectful of the historic context and at the same time being modern and efficient in performance.

By virtue of the conditions that caused it to be developed, the intelligence and talent of those who designed and built it, and the history of its use, a historic building has a biography that is deemed significant to respect and to preserve into the future. The objective of an adaptation for modern use in a historic building should be to preserve the integrity of the historic structure while capturing the essence of the qualities of the historic in the new. Such a design response to new features can span from the literal to the abstract. An important outcome is to be able to articulate in spatial and verbal/narrative terms the concepts that thoughtfully combine the old and the new to produce a combined identify expressing new meanings.

Features of HRB that can provide design inspiration and positive relationships between new features and their historic context include but are not necessarily limited to:

Mathematics and Relationships: Mathematics refers to the vertical and horizontal dimensional characteristics of the historic building. These characteristics can be defined by lines and/or planes that provide reference points for relating the historic to the new. The most evident dimensional characteristics are the dimensions of structural bays, floor-to-floor heights, and window sizes, spacing, heights and divisions. However, other dimensional characteristics can provide non-physical relationships between the historic and new features. An example of features of the historic HRB that were significant to its function and initial design is the service trenches in the floor of the High Bay. While their original function will be redundant in the adaptation of the historic structure for the CoA, the relationship of those features to the new infill High Bay infill would acknowledge the history of the building while providing a horizontal dimensional reference point for inserted floors or other features. The use of a historic building’s mathematics represents a design rigor that communicates an understanding and sensitive response to the historic structure that is distinct from form and materials and that substantively is equally as important to a successful outcome as the materials, colors, and other aspects of the new in relationship to the historic.

Materials: The selection of materials and their contribution to the relationship of the new architecture in the high bay space to the historic materials and their character will be a meaningful part of the composition linking past and future in a thoughtful manner. Steel and metals are being explored as the design vocabulary.

Connections: Connections between the historic and new are particularly sensitive points for acknowledging the relationship between the past and the present/future. This includes both the location of connections and their architectural detail. The care given to the connections is a tangible link between the quality and sensitivity of the two components of the project. It is here that the concept of reversibility in preservation applies. That means to make the connection with the maximum degree possible to allow it to be reversed back to the original historic configuration and character. Demolition plans will include detailing for edge conditions of wall segements that have been demolished.

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architecture school, College of Architecture, hinman, studio
  • Created By: Teri Nagel
  • Workflow Status: Published
  • Created On: Mar 18, 2010 - 8:00pm
  • Last Updated: Oct 7, 2016 - 11:05pm