Inspired by play.
For the last 90 years, the University of Minnesota’s Institute of Child Development has broadened classroom experiences, trained education professionals and improved the quality of learning for children of all ages. The Institute is comprised of research teams, observational testing rooms and classrooms in two connected 1913 and 1960s-era buildings on the university’s Minneapolis campus. But because the existing buildings are older, they do not meet the ever-evolving needs of the organization. RSP developed a plan to renovate the 43,119SF 1960’s-era building, marry it to the existing 1913 building and re-integrate the new addition back into the site. The buildings are also located on a historic knoll, a picturesque part of campus lush with 200-year-old oak trees. The need to preserve the view of the knoll, along with maneuvering around a cumbersome steam tunnel, required RSP to think creatively inside the small site.
The challenge was met by use of children’s toy blocks. Or rather, these blocks served as inspiration for the design. RSP developed an angular building with a stacked massing that both maximizes its footprint and provides the best views of the knoll. Materials like brick and punched window openings on the skin connect back to the 1913 building, while the stacked massing gives it a modern attitude. The design also better serves the people utilizing the building. On the main levels, the classrooms, administrator offices and public areas have floor-to-ceiling glass that connects back to the historic knoll. The research labs and testing suites are in the private, bricked second and third levels. A grand circulating staircase links all the levels together and allows for casual interaction between faculty and students.
The new addition is designed to help the top child development researchers in the country do their best work. The building isn’t specifically for children, but the work inside is all about improving their lives. This inspiration is evident throughout the building. Tucked among the oaks, with an expansive glass façade at the northeast, the addition even mimics an elegant treehouse. This dynamic design will inspire researchers to continue their work in a space that truly fits their needs.