Jacob Bigeleisen on the Chemistry Building
Part 5/6

  The Chemistry Building was authorized by the Congress early in 1961. The authorization included revisions of Project 543-61 based on the Breuer study. The submission of these revisions followed Tucker's method of operation. He would call me at 4 p.m. and request detailed information about personnel size, laboratory requirements, facilities, etc. He said that he would need the information by 10 a.m. the next morning. When I said this was an unreasonable request, his reply was, ”then I will submit my plan”. By then Haworth had left the Laboratory. Gert Friedlander would work until the wee hours of the morning compiling the data Tucker requested, turn our report over to Sophie Kostuk at 8:30 or 9:00 a.m. and deliver our report to Tucker at 10:00 a.m. This was standard operating procedure with Tucker.

   Our project received unanticipated expedited treatment by the AEC and the Congress. In retrospect. I believe it did not hurt to have two friends as AEC Commissoners, G.T. Seaborg, Chairman, and L.J. Haworth. In the spring of 1961, the AEC Operations Office at BNL sent out an RFP to architects and engineers for the design of the Chemistry Building. I believe it was their intention to award the contract to the Vitro Corp., an engineering firm with no architectural expertise. They did inform Vitro that they would have to be coventurers with a recognized architectural firm. Vitro then formed a partnership for this venture with Fellheimer and Wagner. There was no Fellheimer or Wagner in the firm. It had been bought out by Roland Wank and Fred Adams. Five of the firms that submitted proposals were invited for interview. These included Fellheimer and Wagner, joint with Vitro, Seelye, Stevenson, Value and Knecht, who had designed the Physics building and subsequently the Physics addition, the Applied Math Building and Berkner Hall, Max Rudolph and two others I cannot recall. Marcel Breuer was ruled out by AEC Operations Office at BNL as unqualified! I was invited to the interviews, but AEC never solicited the opinions of the Chemistry Division before they made the decision to award the contract to Fellhelmer and Wagner.

   The first plan submitted by Roland Wank was a six-story building with the same overall square footage as called for in our authorization. It was a minor adaptation of a chemistry research laboratory he had designed for Union Carbide in Charleston, WV. Gar Harbottle was particularly outspoken during Wank's presentation of the Fellheimer and Wagner design. We made it clear to AEC that the Fellheimer and Wagner design was unacceptable. We had spent years of study which culminated in the Breuer plan, which Wank was made cognizant of in his interview for the Commission. When he signed the contract, he was given the Breuer report.

 

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Last Modified: February 9, 2016