The Brown University News Bureau
Distributed September 28, 1998
Contact: Scott Turner
W. Duncan MacMillan Hall: Science instruction for the 21st century
W. Duncan MacMillan Hall, dedicated Friday, Oct. 9, 1998, entered service in
the fall semester of the 1998-99 academic year. It houses undergraduate
research and teaching facilities for chemistry, geology and environmental
- Cost: $30 million (total project)
- Architects: Koetter, Kim & Associates
- Specialized lab architecture services: J.D. Salocks Architecture
- Mechanical and electrical engineers: BR+A (Baird, Rao and Athanas)
- Structural engineers: Lim Consultants
- Commissioning engineers: Sunbelt Engineering Inc.
- Builder: Turner Construction
- Site: Thayer Street at George Street, connecting to the existing Geology
and Chemistry Building at all floors
- Gross square feet: 76,000 on three floors
- Lecture halls: one 300-seat lecture hall fitted with the latest
audiovisual equipment; one 110-seat auditorium designed for video conferencing
- Instructional research space: more than 200 state-of-the-art workstations
for students in introductory chemistry courses
- Oversized lobbies and corridors designed to handle large numbers of
- A first-floor interdisciplinary learning center maximizes student-faculty
- Each lecture hall and auditorium seat, workstation and conference-room
chair has a power outlet and fiber-optic connection to the University's
- Extra switches and specially designed blinds control lighting. Sensors
automatically dim fixtures near windows to ensure maximum use of sunlight.
- Faculty and students use a single-touch screen to control slide
projectors, VCRs, liquid-crystal display units and video monitors.
- Heat exchangers reclaim heated air and water that would normally be lost
through the roof or drains.
- Every student has a workstation in the six chemistry teaching-labs. Every
workstation is individually ventilated and enclosed on four sides by safety
glass to allow students to look in all directions. Vents run only when hoods
are in use. Side hookups for water, gas, vacuum, nitrogen and computer maximize
work surfaces. To conserve water, the vacuum system replaces the water
aspirators found in typical laboratories.
- Lab and classroom space are one-in-the-same to allow students and faculty
to move freely from individual investigations to joint discussion of findings,
- Multi-purpose spaces intermingle instrument rooms, lab benches, work
tables and desks. The spaces are arranged to facilitate movement and
communication by students.
- The independent study room and other specialized sites contain new
equipment such as a nuclear magnetic resonance spectrometer to determine the
molecular structure of chemical compounds, a soil smasher nicknamed the "wiggle
bug," a carbon-nitrogen soil analyzer, a flume for water-flow studies, X-ray
machines to examine geological and chemical samples, and a diamond-blade saw to
slice the samples.
- A 10-workstation computer learning center is devoted to the teaching and
use of remotely sensed data, molecular modeling and other applications
requiring state-of-the-art computation and communications.
Other notes on the building
- The facade uses 150,000 specially darkened bricks to approximate the time
worn facades of neighboring buildings.
- Green slate roof mirrors the roofs of buildings across the street, built
in the first quarter of the century.
- Mammoth ventilation fans, necessary for the building's state-of-the-art
air handling system, are hidden in brick structures which resemble chimneys of
- Window-rich design allows maximum use of daylight, yet the building is
According to architect David Frieder, designer of Hasbro Children's Hospital
in Providence, MacMillan Hall integrates laboratory and teaching spaces in an
embracing and inclusive design, while creating a coherent science quadrangle on
In an op-ed article in the Providence Journal-Bulletin, Frieder
described how MacMillan Hall was a fit between architecture and program. The
building, he wrote, "is a rare demonstration of how the architecture of one age
can engage in a stimulating yet respectful dialogue with past
architectures....The architects clearly intend that their design respect the
adjacent buildings in terms of size, material and architectural language, but
that it do so in such a way as to express its essential nature as a