Brockman Hall for Physics provides teaching and experimentation space for researchers once scattered in several buildings on the Rice University campus. With great attention to scale and proportion, it is placed among the other science buildings in what the original 1910 campus master plan by Cram, Goodhue, and Ferguson called the Science Quadrangle. This location, chosen for its low level of intrinsic vibration, posed a set of unique challenges that were synthesized in the design while meeting the difficult technical requirements of a laboratory building.
To successfully fit the program into the constrained site, the building is split into two parallel bars connected by glass-enclosed bridges with an open passage that admits natural light and outdoor breezes. The most sensitive laboratories are located below grade, stabilized by an extremely robust structure. One bar is elevated to preserve a significant portion of the existing Quad, and a series of gathering spaces beneath it extends the building program outdoors. Eight layered facades are tuned to solar conditions and adjacency to other buildings.
While continuing the scale established for buildings on campus a century ago, the design imaginatively expresses the Rice vernacular with glass curtainwall systems, a terracotta rain screen, modular glass bricks, and dichroic glass, demonstrating how contemporary materials and methods can co-exist with and add to the rich architectural history of the campus.