Architects: Architecture Research Office (ARO)
Location: Providence, Rhode Island, USA
Project Team: Stephen Cassell, Principal; Kim Yao, Associate/Principal; Neil Patel, Project Manager; Gustavo Colmenares
Project Year: 2011
Project Area: 18,100 sqf (GSF)
Photographs: Michael Moran
New York-based firm Architecture Research Office (ARO) recently completed the Institute for Computational and Experimental Research in Mathematics, or ICERM at Brown University. The facility is the newest of eight National Science Foundation Mathematical Sciences Research Institutes, and is the only one located in New England. ICERM’s mission is to expand the use of computational and experimental methods in mathematics, to support theoretical advances related to computation, and to address problems posed by the existence and use of the computer through mathematical tools, research and innovation. A venue for workshops and symposia year-round, ICERM also hosts several resident mathematicians for periods of a few weeks up to a semester.
With seating for 104 people and featuring views of downtown Providence on three sides, the Lecture Hall is the heart of ICERM and home to its workshops and symposia. It is equipped with Echo360 lecture-capture technology to enable easy audio and video recording of events as well as live-streaming to the Web. The Lecture Hall’s fourth wall is a writable surface of translucent glass panels inset with two suspended projection screens. This wide, floor-to-ceiling surface, actually a double layer of glass, allows daylight to filter into ICERM’s central lounge, where mathematicians also write on it. The cavity between the wall’s two layers can be illuminated to produce a luminous, iconic connection between the Lecture Hall and ICERM’s lobby.
To reduce costs and shorten the construction schedule, much of the existing partitions and layout are preserved. The design provides as much natural light as possible to interior public spaces. Chalkboards or whiteboards run throughout ICERM’s private offices and public spaces, while selected furniture pieces maximize opportunities for group collaboration. Conference rooms are equipped with Smartboard and video-teleconference technology that support collaborative events both within and beyond the Institute’s physical space. ARO’s design resolves a technical challenge of an appropriate balance between the level of technology required for an institution of this caliber and the quality of work environment necessary for mathematicians to do their best work.