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Team of two realize spectacular design for new Argonne National Labs supercomputing center with BIM technology

BOSTON, March 29, 2010 – In a project that exemplifies the genius of great design and the power of great design software, the $68 million Theory and Computing Sciences Building at Argonne National Laboratory was designed by just two architects using ARCHICAD Building Information Modeling (BIM) software.

A marquee-style façade

The duo, of full-service architecture firm Animate in Chicago, “faced intense deadlines, myriad change requests and continuous demand for reams of plans,” said principal Joseph Lambke. “ARCHICAD accommodated a rapid design process, coordinated the building data, enabled quick changes, and organized the drawings so I could spend more time on design and less on administration. This would have taken a team of eight architects if not for ARCHICAD. People are delighted with the result.”

The Theory and Computing Sciences (TCS) building is a world-class interdisciplinary research center for large-scale computation. It houses 600 researchers across a wide range of computing and scientific disciplines. Unlike other buildings on Argonne’s 1,500-acre Chicago-area campus, the seven-story, 200,000 square-foot structure was specifically designed to be an open and flexible workspace. The goal was to encourage the free flow of ideas among scientists at Argonne and around the world.

For optimal effectiveness, however, the building required careful blends of four environment types: solo, collaborative, structured and unstructured. There are low-traffic, diffusely lit sanctuaries for intensive research and busy, sun-splashed hubs for high-energy brainstorming. It also embraces the site’s natural surroundings to maximize productivity and well-being.

“These researchers spend the bulk of their day in virtual reality,” explained Lambke. “I designed the building so they could recharge their batteries with an occasional dose of ‘real reality’ – that is, nature. They have the forest on the north side, sunbeams on the south and outdoor ‘chalk talk’ balconies. With ARCHICAD, it’s easy to present these kinds of experiences, explore the spaces, then iterate until the concepts are perfected.”

A chalk talk balcony

ARCHICAD Modules enabled Lambke to swiftly respond to several demands for redesign, such as when the building needed more space for cooling equipment for one of the world’s most powerful supercomputers. Solar studies helped Lambke direct morning and afternoon sunlight into two-story atriums while keeping the noonday glare at bay. ARCHICAD produced set after set of floor plans and construction drawings in PDF and DWG file formats.

The TCS conference center entrance evokes a theater marquee so that upon entrance, a visitor’s mind opens to the drama of scientific discovery. A pattern of dots on the façade alludes to binary computing processes, the punch cards that fueled the first computers, and the 17th-century loom cards that automated the creation of complex, colorful woven patterns – like data visualization. “Our goal was to inspire scientists and visitors alike,” said Lambke. “I think we’ve done it.”

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