Looking Back: Strong Hall Research Facility


Next in our “Looking Back” anniversary series, we take you to our largest project to date. Strong Hall Research Facility on the University of Tennessee’s Knoxville campus was an enormous undertaking, but one we are extremely proud and humbled to have been a part of. Keep reading to see how we took on this challenge!

• • •

While any project involving such a historic university can be daunting, this was especially challenging given the circumstances in which this facility needed to be built. The main goal was to incorporate the existing historical site into the new construction, a task that required the utmost caution. The corner site includes a pre-Civil War era archaeological zone and Sophronia Strong Hall – the first campus women’s dormitory and Gardener’s Cottage – the latter being the last remaining building from the 18th Century Cowan Mansion Estate. Given these challenges, the solution was to keep a “historically significant portion” of the original space. This was repurposed into a classroom and workspace, and any historically significant artifacts were salvaged and restored for use or display.

The result is a state-of-the-art, 268,000 SF facility that houses two highly accomplished UTK departments – Anthropology and Earth & Planetary Science. Additionally, it is equipped for Biology and Chemistry general education and has 30,000 SF of general teaching space. The generous four-story Atrium establishes the main entrances and circulation space, creating a clear distinction between public areas and study spaces. Science is fully on display through the facility’s specifically developed thematic branding.

Given the large program and constrained area, and considering most of the facility is only for science education and research, the disciplines housed here are stacked vertically.  Each floor has individual and group study areas, while public functions, general classrooms, and lecture halls are on the main and lower floors.   The classrooms, designed using the “SCALE-UP” model, required maximum integration of communication technology, all while maintaining flexibility.  Medium and smaller size classrooms use multi-directional audio-visual and other communication technologies, and the flexible seating arrangements encourage student collaboration and teamwork.  Here, the professor acts as a monitor and facilitator, contrasting the usual “sage on a stage” setting.

Outside the building, old meets new with the Gardener’s Cottage, meaningfully repurposed into a classroom.  It integrates the existing archaeological zone, the wildflower garden required by the bequeath of the Cowan Mansion to the University, a large rock exhibit, and outdoor seating areas. The intimate Outdoor Classroom sits between this space and the renovated portion of the old Strong Hall.  A public, urban plaza falls between Clement Hall and the new Strong Hall to promote the flow of pedestrian traffic.

• • •

Throughout our 40 year history, we are proud to have worked on meaningful and restorative projects like this one.  We are thankful to work in the communities we know and love, and we look forward to continuing to bring your visions to life for many years to come!

• • •

Founded in 1982 by Jerry W. Lewis, AIA on the principles of honesty, integrity, and exemplary service for our clients, LGA has become the Firm of Choice – the firm that clients have chosen again and again for comprehensive and distinctive design. We look forward to an opportunity to tell you more about how we as an architectural partner can help bring your vision, your dream to life.