University turns shovels on new learning and research facility
Sept. 27, 2007
From staff reports
Saturday will usher in a new era in research and learning for Ohio University as shovels turn dirt on a very different kind of academic building.
Ohio University will break ground at 10 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 29, on a learning and research facility slated to be the first of its kind in Ohio higher education. The innovative design will bring together key activities of two traditionally different colleges -- the Fritz J. and Dolores H. Russ College of Engineering and Technology and the Ohio University College of Osteopathic Medicine -- in a building that is customized to promote collaboration.
"In an era in which medical sciences and engineering are merging to create biomedical discoveries every day, an academic facility that takes away boundaries between the two disciplines makes great sense," said Ohio University President Roderick McDavis.
Nationally known for innovation, Columbus-based engineering and architectural firm Burgess & Niple had a tall order: Create a design with spaces that encourage learning and stimulate interest in research and interdisciplinary work. Make the building contribute to the dynamic of learning. Ultimately, configure it all so that one discipline can gain from another.
The idea was to create a structure that could suit the academic needs of engineers on one hand and medical researchers or physical therapists on another. It also would need areas flexible enough that other colleges and groups on campus can join in the collaborations. The solution includes learning spaces that can be rearranged, labs that can serve multiple purposes, exposed sections that allow students to study the building's structure and spaces for medical research near engineering classrooms. The architects included special project rooms for students and a large "hangar" where anything from a robot competition to a new prototype might take shape.
"The facility will also have breakout nooks along the corridors, outfitted with white boards, tables, Internet access and projectors," said Jennifer Bowie, director of development for University Advancement. "There, students and faculty can continue a discussion after a lecture lets out or stop to sketch out an idea while it's fresh on their minds."
The collaboration between OU-COM and the Russ College arose out of a dire need for more research labs and classrooms. Russ College Dean Dennis Irwin and OU-COM Dean Jack Brose also saw uncharted opportunities.
"Today's students have different methods of learning and working," Irwin said. "They look for collaborative learning opportunities, and they flourish when academic and extracurricular activities blend."
Brose envisioned a building that could help shape the new directions of osteopathic medicine. Once focused almost solely on the patient-care side of medicine, osteopathic physicians are increasingly engaged in cutting-edge research that complements clinical practice.
"As the college becomes nationally recognized for its research, space becomes more critical," Brose said. "A new building could allow us to expand our research activities and draw in new opportunities."
The $30 million, approximately 100,000-square-foot facility asserts itself firmly in Ohio University history as well. The research and learning facility is the only building on campus constructed primarily with private funding since Cutler Hall, completed in 1819.
Russ College alumnus Charles Stuckey, who earned a bachelor of science in mechanical engineering in 1966, and his wife, Marilyn contributed $5 million to the project. An additional $10 million pledge came from the Columbus-based Osteopathic Heritage Foundations. Stuckey and Osteopathic Heritage Foundation President CEO Richard A. Vincent will speak during Saturday's ceremony.
In addition to turning ground for the new facility and unveiling its name, Saturday's ceremony will allow guests to take a "step inside." The entire footprint will be laid out where the building will stand, making it easier to imagine the innovative spaces. A few other surprises also are on the agenda.
The university community is invited and encouraged to join McDavis, alumni and other private donors at this historic event, which will be held at the site on Oxbow Trail on the West Green.
Visit the project Web site for more on the facility, including a virtual tour, floor plans and information on how you can help.