This material is used by permission of Ohio University Press, www.ohioswallow.com

  • Architects: Wandel & Schnell Architects, Columbus; Mack Scogin Merrill Elam Architects, Atlanta
  • 2004
  • 275 West Woodruff Avenue

OSU’s Austin E. Knowlton School of Architecture has settled into its new home. In keeping with its function, the building makes a strong architectural statement. Its most distinctive characteristic is the contrast between its exterior surface of white-and-gray marble shingles held in place by special stainless-steel clips and its spatially complex, largely concrete interior. This material makes the building look boxy and firm at some times and fluid and sinuous at others. The whole design defies easy classification—one can argue that it reflects ship design but also that it commemorates nineteenth-century Shingle-style homes, or even contemporary warehouse design.

The building incorporates, in addition to the marble skin, abundant amounts of concrete and glass, all assembled in ways that do not repeat anywhere in the composition. In some areas slender concrete columns make the building seem to hover above its site, while in other places it rests firmly on a solid concrete base. Needless to say, the contrast with the conservative, historically inspired Fisher College of Business just to the north is quite dramatic. The building is a model for the students, providing multiple spatial and circulation types. One of the best interior spaces is the library on the top floor, which is light and airy and sheathed in glass, facing a roof garden not visible from the street.

Along the Knowlton’s west elevation is a deep cleft, which is all glass-lined and serves the important function of a light court. It also shelters a collection of historical columns representing all the classical architectural orders. They rest in this narrow slot, ready to be revealed with little warning to the passerby, and remind us that, as different as Knowlton Hall may be from what we have seen before, all design rests upon what came to us from the past.

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