SFA design energises Dickinson’s campus infrastructure with expressive structure
Dickinson College’s program for its Central Energy Plant addition (designed by Spillman Farmer Architects - SFA) was straightforward: extend the existing 80,000 sq ft building to accommodate the boilers and cooling towers required to serve the campus’ energy requirements.
The College asked that the addition, a 6,300 sq ft building determined by the size of the equipment housed within, reveal the functionality of the building rather than conceal its operations. The architect’s challenge was to respond to the client’s programme and create an extension that respected the existing structure but was not dominated by it.
The new building is a layered creation of brick and aluminium. At the east elevation a stair tower marks a subtle transition from the existing to the new; here, a full-height brick wall continues the mass of the original building. As the corner is turned, the brick is progressively subtracted until it becomes a low wall on the west elevation. In its place, continuing to define the space, is an aluminium veil that is visually both solid and sheer. Its solidity completes the block form and its sheerness allows views into the functional spaces (cooling towers) within.
The horizontal layering also suggests the building’s vertical layering. The masonry wall envelops, but does not hide, the structural elements placed independently behind it. The aluminium veil is loosely hung on the structure. Throughout, the building shows clear evidence of how it is made, its materiality expressed and unadorned.