The Forum at Marvin Hall

The purpose of this project was to create a space that would transform the

culture of the School through the creation of a central “commons” which

included a 121 seat lecture hall and meeting/exhibition space. While

modest in size and cost, the Forum is disproportionately important to

the School and to the University in its critically needed function and aesthetic impact.

The School has never had a central place for this purpose, a “there”

for interaction, welcome, and celebration of the work of its integrated

professional programs – a cultural amenity that is common to virtually all

design-based schools nationally. While this need has existed throughout

the School’s 45 years of occupancy in Marvin Hall, the current opportunity

is due to a confluence of factors, the most significant of which was

the opportunity to

engage the Architecture program’s well-qualified design/build program for the design

and construction of the project during the 2013-14 academic year. The

graduate capstone studio has designed and built three higher education

buildings of comparable size and complexity over the past three years– to

great technical and aesthetic acclaim.

The Forum enriches the School’s professional culture and, in its

transparency, invites interaction with the larger University community

alongside its historic Boulevard. Our goal was to complete the project

by the end of one year (Summer, 2014) – serving the critical need of our

three departments in creating accommodation for lectures, encouraging

interaction of students and faculty, and providing a unique sense of place.

The Forum at Marvin Hall was constructed as a new lecture hall and also transformed

the existing second floor jury room into a student commons area. The

new commons space offers an area for students to congregate

and create a foyer for the lecture hall. The addition extends from

the south elevation of the existing Marvin Hall and is accessed thru

two existing windows that were converted to accommodate the

passage opening.

Following the tradition of previous desin/build projects, the facility

incorporates both passive and active sustainable systems and

technologies. The building will achieve LEED Platinum


The perimeter skin is made up of two separate walls of insulated glass three and

a half feet apart. The space between them provides room for the cedar louvers.

Motorized dampers are located at the top and bottom of the outer layer. During

the months when cooling is needed, the upper and lower dampers open, allowing

the space between the inner- and outer-glass walls to be naturally ventilated,

preventing heat from building up. In the winter, the vents are closed, cloaking the

building in a warm blanket provided by heat gained from the sun, similar to the

way heat builds up inside a car with its windows rolled up.

The Forum also includes a unique positive displacement ventilation system. On

mild days during the year, this natural ventilation mode allows both the primary and

outdoor air systems to shut down and cross-ventilation is used to draw in fresh air

through the space. It enters from the east façade into an underfloor plenum, and

seeps through openings in the floor and the risers beneath the auditorium seats

at low velocity. This minimizes the need to introduce mechanically tempered air

into the space whenever possible.

Controlling daylight is an important component of the energy reduction effort. This

is done through the use of eight bays of independently adjustable western red

cedar louvers placed inside the ventilated wall. The louvers are rotated to block

the sun by motors controlled by a weather station on the roof. They shade the

addition as needed while still allowing enough indirect light inside to turn off the

LEDs when necessary. This flexibility, along with a projector and screen designed

for displaying high definition images in full sun, allow the maximization of the

available daylight, and a positive environment for learning.

A living wall of ferns and begonias provides acoustic control for the lecture space.

The water for the living wall is supplied by a cistern in the mechanical room that

stores water harvested from the roof. A closet separates the Lecture Hall from

the Jury Room providing needed storage and facilitating the routing of supply and

return air.

The marriage of both sustainable design and innovative technologies — which

can sometimes go unnoticed — attribute to the high efficiency with which the

Forum operates.

The overall aesthetic is due largely to the use of the wood interior; it harkens back to the original frame structure of old Marvin Hall but is also a contemporary application of the use of wood as a building material of the present.