In 2012 Grace Chiang and Bob O’Brien started a new firm with the goal of getting back to the true essence of practicing architecture unencumbered by the distractions of a larger, more corporate structure. They were senior management at HOLT Architects, a firm that Bob had co-founded and where Grace and Bob had been principals for the last 2 and 3 decades respectively. The projects detailed in this section are projects that were completed by Grace and Bob as Principals-in-Charge while still at HOLT Architects, who are the architects of record.
The circa 1894 Ohio sandstone structure, listed on the National Register of Historic Places was designed in by William Henry Miller, first graduate of Cornell University’s architecture program who went on to become a notable architect in Ithaca. The building has served the Dryden, NY community as a public library continuously since 1894 and the resources and services it provides had long outgrown the compact design of the building. In response to the need for additional space the library Board of Trustees decided to send the original manuscript of Abraham Lincoln’s 1864 election victory speech to auction to enable them to create funding for an addition. The addition tripled the size of the library while providing accessibility to the physically disabled, and includes space for its browsing collection, reading rooms, storage, computer stations, and offices. The addition is located behind the original structure allowing it to maintain its main street presence and integrity, while the selection of materials, the building form and mass of the addition complement the historic architecture.
The theatre was founded in 1975 when an extraordinary group not only founded but physically constructed the original theatre. Converted from a municipal airport hangar, the now established and successful theatre was ready to provide the equity actors and theatre going public with rejuvenated and improved the facilities. While the original project goals focused on winterization of the building and improvement to the site grading and landscaping to mitigate perennial flooding issues, in the end the project facilitated a full renovation. The building was reoriented to the main road offering a glimpse into the transformed lobby space through large glass entrances and windows. The concession area and box office were reoriented, and the formerly dark lobby space was transformed with natural light flooding into the space. All theatre seats were replaced, the sound panel, lighting grid, catwalks and stage and HVAC systems were all rebuilt. A small addition allowed for complete reorganization of the back of house which included new dressing rooms, diva room, staff bathrooms, green room, and the patron’s favorite amenity, new rest rooms that doubled prior capacity.
Prospective students and their families are inspired when they visit the Office of Admission in the Williams Center and enter its tall atrium with spectacular views of Cayuga Lake. This LEED Platinum-certified building rests on a platform of native bluestone, which rises out of the sloping terrain like an outcropping to enclose the lowest level. Above, roof terraces and green roofs surround the main entry level, where the atrium’s stone floor bears an inlaid seal of the college, and an open stair extends through the three upper floors. A bridge at the second floor connects the building to Dillingham Center, from which pedestrians can walk all the way to the Campus Center without ever going outdoors. An exterior material palette of curtain wall, metal panels, and dolomitic limestone integrates the building firmly within the context of adjacent structures, and supports the visual harmony that is a characteristic of the Ithaca College campus.
Constructed at the same time as the Peggy Ryan Williams Center, this project completed the connection of Dillingham Center to the pedestrian concourse that serves five buildings, including the Campus Center, to the east. In this project, the concourse ramps down to pass below the grand exterior granite staircase that leads up to the Dillingham Fountain. Classrooms flank either side of the stairway, accessible from the concourse, and feature sloped glass rain screens facing north.
Located amid a complex of residence halls, the design of the Fitness Center faced the challenge of physically fitting in among these smaller-scaled buildings. By sinking the large gymnasium spaces one story into the ground, and breaking the building down into three separate volumes – the gable-roofed gymnasiums, the vaulted exercise room, and the pyramidal dance studio with its central skylight – the design projects a collection of smaller-scale components. The ground-face masonry exterior shares the color palette of the residence halls’ stone façades, and the standing-seam metal roofing relates to the residence hall roofs, as well as larger nearby buildings. Inside, the building is open and light-filled, with balconies and view windows in a see-and-be-seen environment that is crucial to the social atmosphere of the center.
Located on quiet, residential Lake Moraine, a few miles from the Colgate campus, the project posed the design challenge of fitting in amongst the neighborhood of lakefront cottages. The design evokes the great nineteenth century boathouses of the Schuylkill River, and alludes to the shingle-style of Adirondack camps. The tall central monitor roof encloses a large second story space, with balconies on both sides, which is used for ergometer training and as a meeting and activity room. The exterior is clad in cedar shingles above a base of native stone, and the large sliding doors of the boat bays are painted Colgate maroon.
The Landscape Architecture studio in Kennedy Hall, a building designed by Gwathmey Siegal and constructed in 1992, was generous in the height, but offered no feasible possibility for horizontal expansion. The solution was insertion of a mezzanine level into the space, which increased the capacity for the Landscape Architecture department studio by forty percent. The design maintained the unique character of the three-story vaulted space, while achieving an expansion that increased the capacity of the studio by 40 stations. A crisp material palette of structural glass and stainless steel railings provides a light, elegant design that is in harmony with the studio environment.
As the main building of the School of Health Sciences and Human Performance, the Center for Health Sciences serves the dual functions of academic facility and clinic. The three-story atrium, with its dramatic cascading stairs, forms the public access to the Wellness, Occupational Therapy, and Physical Therapy Clinics. On the academic side, large teaching and research laboratories fill out the building. The building connects to Smiddy Hall, which houses faculty offices for Physical and Occupational Therapy, as well as the Sir Alexander Ewing Speech and Hearing Clinic.
Home to the Departments of Biology, Chemistry, and Physics, the Center for Natural Sciences was designed to endure. Constructed of cast-in-place concrete with waffle slabs, the structure is massive, stable, and vibration-free. The programmatic elements are arranged side-by-side in linear, north-south rows, which are, in order from east to west: circulation atrium, class laboratories, mechanical corridor, research laboratories, corridor, and offices and support. The mechanical corridor runs throughout the building, north to south and basement to roof, connecting to a large fan gallery at the roof. Every laboratory has a common wall with the mechanical corridor, giving unlimited flexibility to future modifications to lab services. The exterior of the building is brick, limestone, and curtain wall, with a vaulted standing-seam metal roof over the fan gallery.
The Whalen Center for Music was an addition to Ford Hall, the college’s original School of Music. The addition wraps around three sides of the original building, and has a four-story, skylighted atrium, which brings natural light to the faculty studios in the original building. The new faculty studios were constructed on floating slabs with decoupled partitions between spaces and sound-attenuated ductwork to assure acoustic isolation; no sound passes between adjacent studios, but a limited amount leaks out of the studios to the adjacent atrium to provide a soft musical ambience to the space. The project also includes rehearsal spaces, specialized classrooms, and a 250-seat recital hall.
Park Hall is home to the Roy H. Park School Of Communications, and features sound-sensitive television, radio, and recording studios located at the central core of the building, surrounded by office and support spaces that buffer the studios from environmental noise. For vibration dampening, the building was constructed entirely of cast-in-place concrete. The studios were designed with room-within-a-room construction and cooled by quiet, very low velocity ductwork from the penthouse fan room. To avoid structure-borne noise and vibrations, the main mechanical equipment space was located adjacent to the building in an underground bunker.
It was important to the college and the community that the new structure be contextual and fit compatibly within the 19th century historic and largely residential environs. The entire Art and Design program was too large to fit in the structures and on the site which was constrained by regulatory height and footprint restrictions. Consensus building during the programming and planning phase brought the faculty into agreement about programs to be accommodated. A design that was sympathetic to the neighborhood scale and historic context, and materials that reflected those found on the main college campus resulted in a building that houses the “clean” arts of the Art and Design program: interior design, graphic arts, photography, and gallery space.
At a time when many higher education institutions were trying to address attrition concerns and easing the transition for first year students, this project created a comfortable space to enhance the living/learning experience, allowing interactions with faculty and advisors in a relaxed setting, and access to university resources. The location in the 1920’s era Balch Hall, situated between the academic campus and freshman residences, was ideal as a gateway. Formerly housing a multi-room dining room and kitchen, the space was transformed to include seminar and classroom spaces for first year courses, casual study and lounge space, browsing library, art display cases, offices for tutoring and counseling, and Carol’s Café while retaining the historic fireplaces and architectural details.
An adaptive reuse of a former natatorium into academic teaching and office space presented a challenge. To create teaching and academic office space for the Sociology and Anthropology Department. The natatorium space had large windows with sills high above the floor, precluding the possibility for operable windows or views to the outside other than the sky. The design solution created a light-filled and airy high-story space that is shared by the entire department, with office pods floating within, all taking advantage of the borrowed light. As a result of the thoughtful collaborative design approach the department faculty and staff are delighted with their new space.
Designed to house biology, chemistry, physics and environmental studies labs, classrooms and faculty offices, Ann Wilder Stratton’46 Hall also includes a 98-seat tiered classroom and a two-story atrium that accommodates collaborative study nooks and individual study space. The result is a centrally located facility, which is attractive as a teaching, gathering and study place for campus community at large. The intimate scale of the buildings on this formerly women only college’s historic campus made it extremely important to the Board of Trustees that the new building fit within that context, enhancing but not competing with the eclectic and charming character of the existing campus. By breaking the massing into several volumes, taking advantage of the steeply sloping site to reduce the overall height, and utilizing a soft edged red brick and materials that reflect companion buildings nearby, the building sits comfortably alongside its neighbors.