Fostering Connections at ANSYS Hall

© Chuck Choi

ANSYS Hall is an example of what is possible when an academic facility is designed collaboratively. It’s about integrating public-private interest, encouraging idea-sharing and embracing opportunities for connection. The 36,000-square-foot mixed-use building, designed for Carnegie Mellon University’s College of Engineering, is a partnership with the engineering software company ANSYS, Inc., weaving together a network of makerspaces and uniting its occupants.

The addition of ANSYS Hall on the campus mall unlocks access points and increases functionality, not only for this artfully planned building but the whole ecosystem in which it resides. Acting as a unifier on campus, the high-bay makerspace, classrooms, labs, and offices provide valuable resources, as well as allow for better use of adjacent facilities. ANSYS Hall has a transformational effect at CMU through its integration into the historic campus context, its adaptive, flexible design, and the ability to spark new ideas through visual connection and knowledge sharing.

© Chuck Choi

At the onset of the design process, our team conducted extensive research into the history of Carnegie Mellon University’s campus and its architectural legacy. We analyzed the core design principles and the logic behind Henry Hornbostel’s iconic Beaux-Arts design for the surrounding campus mall buildings to inform our approach to a modern architectural expression. With intimate knowledge of the site and the surrounding buildings, we simplified our design response to its essence: a glass box with a floating brick box above. This clarity of vision proved essential when addressing the complexities of multiple building connections and functions.

© Chuck Choi

With its condensed footprint and importance as a hub, we felt it was necessary to design an uninterrupted flow between core building components, surrounding functions, and the outdoor maker court. We shifted circulation paths out of plane to create internal and external bridges that support unhindered circulation and provide views into the high-bay makerspace.

ANSYS Hall is set in between four existing academic buildings with seven pedestrian connection points. It is the final link to the College of Engineering “Maker Ecosystem” that includes nano-, micro-, and macro- fabrication, bringing together undergraduate and graduate students from multiple disciplines in a hands-on environment that encourages creativity, collaboration, and prototyping.

To encourage this mindset of innovation in the building’s occupants, ANSYS Hall was conceived as a shell, stripped of unnecessary finishes, and designed to evolve perpetually. Just like the makers innovating inside, the building is adaptive, allowing for change in use and technology while strengthening its resiliency for long-term use. The open floorplan of the high-bay makerspace is designed to spark impromptu gatherings across classes and departments as a central meeting place, creating a stimulating atmosphere. Moveable worktables, flexible power hookups, and a large roll-up door beckon expansive creativity and thinking “outside of the box” — or outside of the building.

“Collaboration and making are essential to what we do as architects, so we’re always interested in designing buildings that allow for this type of creative exploration and prototyping,”

— Principal Architect Greg Mottola, FAIA

© Chuck Choi

This highly visible and centrally located building employs ample use of glass, providing layers of transparency and visual connection to foster the cross-pollination of ideas. The light-filled learning environment promotes wellness, interdisciplinary exchange, and puts people at the center. The building employs modulated transparency and porosity to provide views to the outside as well as various spaces within the building — from the bridge into the maker high-bay, the high-bay into the ANSYS learning lab. Wherever you are in ANSYS Hall, you’re engaged with multiple layers of space and framed views. This transparency puts the students and their work on display, but in a subtle way so they don’t feel like they’re in a fishbowl. The building design provides a dynamic, healthy environment for people to work and learn.

© Chuck Choi

What makes ANSYS Hall stand apart from other buildings of its kind is not what is readily visible but what it does seamlessly. Its strength comes from its holistic integration into the existing campus and its ability to transform the function of the larger network of pathways. ANSYS Hall bridges the physical gaps but also blends connection points between old and new. The building offers flexible environments to foster creativity and provides a hybrid model for higher education embracing public-private partnerships. ANSYS Hall, in turn, is helping to reshape Carnegie Mellon University’s Engineering College, providing the university with a competitive edge to attract and inspire the next generation of innovators.

Further Reading

ANSYS Hall Wins AIA Pennsylvania Honor Award
Reimagining the Rust Belt: Building Authentic, Sustainable Ecosystems for Innovation
Extending the Life of Outdoor Campus Spaces

Designing buildings that inspire connection and wonder in every person who experiences them.