Jacob Bigeleisen on the Chemistry Building
Part 3/6

   After a building was authorized by the Congress, AEC selected architects and engineers for the project. Since all these people have to sell is their time. they invariably took the BNL plan and then put a skin around it and collected their fee. I told Haworth the Laboratory was not getting its money's worth. The architects hired to design and plan the facility were not doing any planning and a minimum amount of design. Tape was of the opinion that the most important part of a scientific laboratory was the engineering, the facilities. I firmly disagreed with that; even with respect to the facilities I pointed out that the Laboratory was not getting its money's worth. For instance, in all the new buildings, there was one light switch that activated all the lights in a room or area. It was all or nothing. I pointed out that inevitably the cost of energy would rise and the time would come when we would have to reduce the scientific staff by either firing or attrition to pay the electricity bills. He asked Tape whether my statements about facility construction were true; they were. Haworth asked me how I wanted to proceed. I told him that I wanted him to hire an outside architectural firm to work with us in planning the building, not the design before any request was made to AEC for building design. This would provide a realistic statement of our needs along with a cost estimate based on current construction costs. Most important, we wanted to explore the possibilities of a user friendly building, not one just built to supply infrastructure. There was enough expertise on the Committee and the Laboratory staff to plan the infrastructure. Design would be made after Congressional authorization by the architect-engineers hired to do this. Haworth said that if I felt this was important to me and the Chemistry Department it would be done. He suggested that we start with bringing in as consultants faculty in the departments of architecture at the AUI universities. (AUI, Associated Universities Incorporated, a consortium of northeastern universities, was the contractor operating the Laboratory for the AEC.) He agreed that we could also have commercial architects, people with active practices.

   In the summer of 1959, the Department had established a formal Building Committee: Jacob Bigeleisen, Chairman, Norman Elliott, Gerhart Friedlander, N. Blair Munhofen, and Alfred P. Wolf. We visited laboratories and brought in as paid and unpaid consultants:

l. Professor Lawrence Anderson, Chairman Architecture MIT and principal of Anderson and Beckwith.
2. Marcel Breuer and Associates - Architects.
3. Professor Albert Bush-Brown, MIT, later President of Rhode Island School of Design.
4. Ludwig Mies van der Rohe - Chicago Architects, principal of the Seagram Building, and former head of the Bauhaus and Dean of Architecture at Illinois institute of Technology.
5. I.M. Pei and Associates - Architects.
6. Professor Paul Rudolph, Chairman Department of Architecture, Yale U.
7. Eero Saarinen and Associates - Architects.
8. Edward D. Stone - Architects.

 

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Last Modified: June 28, 2012