Research building rises as second architectural marvel at Florida Poly

The building will strengthen the research capacity of the university.

LAKELAND – The new and the old merge when you stand near the entrance to the Applied Research Center, a building currently under construction in Florida Polytechnic University.

An outwardly angled sheet of glass panels on the second floor serves as a mirror, reflecting the white exoskeleton of the Innovation Science and Technology building, a modernist wonder and currently the only academic structure on campus.

“It has the potential to be one of the most photographed campuses in the country,” said Florida Poly spokeswoman Lydia Guzman, standing close to this vantage point.

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The Applied Research Center continues to assume its striking exterior features more than a year and a half after construction began, and Florida Poly officials are celebrating an injection of state funding that will allow it to be completed in delays.

the The Florida legislature included nearly $ 14.9 million for the bill in the budget passed this session, and Governor Ron DeSantis refrained from vetoing funding when he signed the budget on June 2. This action was a relief for David Calhoun, assistant vice president of facilities and security services at Florida Polytechnic.

“I thought this was great news for Florida Poly,” Calhoun said. “We have more campuses to build on than buildings we have built. We still have a lot of room for growth.

Florida Poly President Randy K. Avent thanked the Polk County Legislative Delegation for the funding in a press release issued after the budget was signed by DeSantis.

“The ARC will be fundamental to the economic growth we envision around the campus, allowing us to expand our research development, attract more industry alliances and bring in capital investments,” Avent said in the press release.

The building’s labs will not only improve the university’s research capabilities, Guzman said, but also create opportunities for industrial partnerships. This could help stimulate economic development around the campus. Florida Poly executives and officials from Polk County and neighboring towns pushed for the idea of ​​an innovation district on undeveloped land surrounding the campus.

Construction on the approximately 95,000 square foot building began in the fall of 2019. If the legislature had not provided the fixed capital funds for education – representing about a third of the estimated construction cost – Florida Poly would have had to settle for seeing the exterior finished but leaving the interior elements unfinished.

Now, the planned completion is in the spring of 2022, which means students and faculty could use the building by next summer.

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Angular aspect

Construction crews worked hard inside and outside the building Thursday morning as Florida Poly officials led a helmet tour for a reporter and photographer. The interior remains in a raw form, with air ducts and exposed bare ceilings. The beeping of construction vehicles rivaled the whirring of portable fans, as air conditioning and interior lights were not yet in use.

When completed, the ARC building will provide the necessary research space to complement the teaching provided in the IST building. The new structure will contain research laboratories, teaching laboratories, offices and classrooms, including a spacious multipurpose room on the second floor which offers a splendid view of the IST building and the rest of the campus.

Florida Poly opened in 2014 as the state’s 12th public university and the only one specializing in the study of STEM subjects – science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. The campus quickly gained fame for the IST Building, a roughly $ 100 million structure designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava.

This building, a white, elliptical expanse with a raised center and movable aluminum louver system, has won over 20 awards, including Engineering News-Record’s Global Project of the Year, and has become a popular topic for photographers.

HOK, an international design firm with an office in Tampa, designed the Applied Research Center. Skanska USA, the American division of a company based in Sweden, takes care of the construction, just as it did for the IST building.

The new building, shaped like an “A” with the two offset lines, occupies a space in front of the moat surrounding the structure of Calatrava. While not as close to Interstate 4 as the IST building, the new structure can be seen from the freeway.

“I think it complements the IST building,” Calhoun said. “The main entrance to the ARC faces the IST building, so the access points are aligned with each other for good campus integration. “

While the IST building is a model of symmetry and gentle curves, the new structure projects a different kind of modernism with its asymmetrical design, slanting lines and sharp angles.

Spacious interior

Like the original building, the ARC promises an airy interior, and its many windows and a row of skylights will let in plenty of natural light. Calhoun said this feature mimics the skylights of the IST building.

“One of the design elements of our campus architecture is the introduction of some of Florida’s natural elements and typical Florida construction methods, some of which are concrete, steel, as well as natural lighting, ”Calhoun said. “Thus, in all our installations, you will notice that they integrate elements to bring sunlight into the buildings. “

As with the IST building, the new building will have offices and bedrooms along the exterior, leaving an inviting common space towards the center of the first floor. Artist renderings show a lobby filled with sofas and chairs and a large, uncluttered atrium.

Two wide staircases lead from the atrium to the second floor. (The building will also have two elevators, as required by law.)

Large, irregularly shaped openings on the second floor create an elevation of about 30 feet from the first floor to the ceiling. On the second floor, the glass curtain walls extend almost from floor to ceiling over the entire exterior. Laboratories, offices and classrooms surround the perimeter of the building.

Florida Poly project manager Brent McLean said the design emphasizes transparency.

“All of your offices are outside the building so everyone has a window view,” he said. “It’s one thing that they were trying to promote, is that everyone has that feeling on the outside.”

High glass panels also cover the facades of the laboratories.

“They (the designers) wanted to make sure everything is a glass facade,” McLean said. “That way, when the students are studying here in the commons, they can watch and see what these researchers are doing in those lab spaces. New freshmen who haven’t quite decided can actually see physically what they can and can’t do in their future careers.

The IST building contains a few labs, Calhoun said, but these are mostly teaching labs for student-level research. The laboratories in the new building will be equipped with the necessary equipment to support university research in the natural sciences as well as in engineering and computer science.

Visual splendor

McLean described the multipurpose room, which can be used as a classroom or for other functions, as one of the architects’ “centerpieces” in the building, along with the atrium.

“It allows you to capture the entire campus from one point of view,” he said.

The room, measuring approximately 3,000 square feet, has windows lined up on three sides. Up front, glass sheets tilted outward at a 20-degree angle provide an ideal view of the IST building. As McLean noted, standing near the front of the room almost feels like you’re hovering over the moat between the two buildings.

The hall has a potential occupancy capacity of 200 people, and the artist renderings show the hall containing enough rows of desks to accommodate around 80 students in front of a pair of giant retractable screens. Design plans call for leaving exposed, sloping beams along both sides of the room, and McLean said a suspended ceiling at different levels would help with the acoustics.

This room extends approximately 40 feet beyond the exterior of the first floor to the main entrance, creating a spectacular covered space. Calhoun said the entrance is located to supply the core of the campus and a paved walkway leads through the moat to the IST building and dormitories to the east.

Exterior details include walls containing a series of holes that serve as the air conditioning intake feed. The entire exterior is designed as an open joint rainscreen, which limits the direct impact of water on the exterior surfaces of the building.

Florida Poly began allowing faculty and staff to visit the construction site in April, Guzman said. The new building has also become a flagship visitation stop for prospective students, as Skanska has allowed tours on weekends, Calhoun said.

Although construction continues next year, McLean said the project has reached the point where the building looks more like the finished version than a simple shell.

“You are really starting to get excited to see the renderings really come to life,” he said.

Gary White can be contacted at [email protected] or 863-802-7518. Follow on Twitter @ garywhite13.

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