Cunz Hall, a four story, 60’s era, Brutalist Style structure on the campus of The Ohio State University, has been extensively renovated as the new home of the College of Public Health, with offices, classrooms and bioscience laboratories. The renovations retained the concrete structure and much of the signature Brutalist precast concrete panel exteriors while improving upon a number of deficiencies, including: the lack of interior day-lighting confusing interior circulation limited contextual relationship (yes, a hallmark of Brutalism) the lack of clarity of the building’s entries that were located on four identical facades aesthetic limitations of this particular example of Brutalist architecture.
The singular move of creating a new north-south orientation led to the resolution of these deficiencies. Precast panels at the north façade were replaced with a new glass curtain wall and glass canopy above the new north entry. On the south façade, a forty-foot deep slot was carved into the building above the second floor, with a skylight above the south entry and an atrium just behind the slot connecting the second and third floors. The support of the floor slab edge at the slot was achieved through the use of carbon fiber straps (top face) and rods (bottom face) to avoid steel beams and diminished head height. The new glazing, the slot and atrium all bring a flood of daylight into the building. A new north-south lobby at each floor connects the north and south entries through the building, providing a clear internal orientation and new exterior views to the campus. New full-height glass stair towers at each entry clearly establish the new points of access – the south serving as the main access for college faculty, staff and students entering from the medical campus and the north serving main campus students accessing the first floor classrooms. The south stair concrete shear wall replaces the interior shear wall removed to accommodate the new elevators.
The extensive use of glass in the alterations and additions creates a clear distinction between old and new, reinforcing the integrity of the original Brutalist architecture while creating a new and current image for the building and its occupants.
The interiors feature perimeter both open offices suites and enclosed offices using demountable partitions with glass panels that bring daylight into the corridors and other interior spaces. New windows in the original precast concrete exterior panels are rear-mounted with their daylight openings extending the full dimensions of the precast openings, admitting maximum daylight.
— The Ohio State University College of Public Health had been functioning for years dispersed among several university buildings, a portion of Cunz Hall among them. The decision was made to consider a extensively renovated Cunz Hall as a new home for the consolidation of the college departments. After a public bidding process, the JBAD team was selected to execute the project.
The university values its history in all forms and representations, including this rather intimidating Brutalist structure from the 1960’s. So it was for reasons of architectural history as well as sustainable design that the building was saved. Its functional deficiencies were recognized, however, and appropriate remedies requested. The university had completed or planned several high profile projects in the vicinity, all of which were anchored to a common greenway, and required the Cunz Hall renovation to be equally transformative and impactful. Beyond the improvements to the structure’s function and aesthetics, re-establishing its connections to public spaces and site circulation were also critical. The university saw the ultimately successful completion of the project as one of the most significant achievements ever in building renovation and repurposing for Ohio State. The university president described it as “a great achievement.”
— The Cunz Hall renovation project was the university’s first LEED renovation project. Examples of the project’s sustainable, LEED design and construction are found in the all new advanced HVAC systems and controls, the extensive (95%) recycling of nearly of the demolition and construction materials, the green roof adjacent to the second floor atrium and the new rain garden located in the south entry court. To balance the high level of day-lighting control provided by the deep, precast concrete exterior panels of the original structure, their removal and replacement with fully glazed curtain walls at the north and south facades provided much need interior daylighting and views. These glazed facades, located at opposite ends of the new interior concourse, also provided clear orientation from the interiors to the campus beyond.
The technical challenges to the LEED strategies involved heat recovery systems integrated into the laboratory exhaust hoods and connections to the university’s campus-wide steam and chilled water loop systems.