Articles Tagged with: URI
Fascitelli Center for Advanced Engineering Wins DVASE Outstanding Project Award

Ballinger’s Fascitelli Center for Advanced Engineering at the University of Rhode Island (URI) was recognized by the Delaware Valley Association of Structural Engineers (DVASE) with the 2020 Outstanding Project Award. DVASE’s annual Excellence in Structural Engineering program highlights engineering feats that display inventive and artful tackling of difficult project challenges.

Constructed on the former site of five demolished buildings on URI’s main South Kingstown campus, the Fascitelli Center serves as a “bridge” between the liberal arts programs at campus south and the basic sciences at campus north. To create a literal bridge, the central bar of the building is supported by three four-story tall architecturally exposed steel trusses, each with 160-foot center spans. This layout allows the first floor commons area to be an unobstructed, all-glass pass-through from campus south to north, with no need for visible supports. To support engineering education, the major truss members are clearly evident, cutting diagonally through each floor in a large “X” to be viewed by all approaching the building.

Winners were honored at a virtual awards program.

Fabulous Fascitelli Engineering Center at URI

Architecture critic William Morgan reviewed the University of Rhode Island’s Fascitelli Center for Advanced Engineering, designed and engineered by Ballinger.

Excerpted from GoLocalProv:

The University of Rhode Island’s Fascitelli Center for Advanced Engineering handsomely demonstrates that bold new architecture is not just the purview of Ivy League schools and their private brethren like RISD and MIT.

Colleges and universities can be the places to view the latest work of starchitects. Institutions like Yale, Princeton, and MIT have become architectural petting zoos, with strutting displays of egotecture.

State schools are often less likely to be laboratories of avant-garde architecture. Yet public universities–the Michigans, Ohio States, Californias–are also commissioning notable design.

New England may be the incubator of higher education in this country, but architecturally our state universities have lagged somewhat behind. The $125,000 million Fascitelli Center demonstrates that that is changing.

At the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, for example, New England’s only public architecture school moved into the first academic building in the United States made of cross-laminated-timber, designed by Leers Weinzapfel, while the business school just opened an innovation hub by Bjarke Ingels Group, one of the world’s most daring firms.

URI’s engineering program, once scattered across the campus in a various structures is now housed in one striking 190,000 square feet steel and glass structure that has become the center of gravity for the Kingston school.

The L-shaped, five-story engineering building is in marked contrast to the rest of the campus. Except for the attractive Westerly granite structures in classic post-Civil-War-state-college style surrounding the common, URI’s design identity has been undistinguished.

In part because of a new master plan by Ballinger, architects of the engineering building, works like the Wellness & Fitness Center, an imaginative remake by Kite Architects of a 1965 dining hall, are beginning to offset less inspiring projects such as the URI Foundation’s home, which looks like a bloated McMansion, one with rams horns capitals.

But the missteps of the past fade when one enters the sparkling, light-collecting Fascatelli Center. Its strong, clean lines and pristine glass and metal surfaces are the perfect metaphor for a research center that explores the physical aspects of our world from civic and environmental engineering to Nano-technology and cyber-security.

As Terry Steelman, senior principal at Ballinger and project designer, says, Fascitelli “propagates the notion of engineering as a bridge between liberal arts and the sciences.” A 210-foot-long truss that spans the ground floor reinforces the bridge theme.

Beneath that span is a transparent rectangle sheltering a student gathering space with a cafe. Because of the trussing system, this large open social center supports nothing above it, so one can see right through this open space to the other side.

Visible diagonal trusses show through the glass walls. This bracing system allows classrooms and research laboratories to be unencumbered with vertical columns.

Hallways along the exterior perimeters of the white-painted trusses provide the school’s most endearing feature: a hawk’s-eye view the campus and the South County countryside.

Philadelphia-based Ballinger has a reputation as designers of technically complex science buildings, and have worked at Penn, Cornell, Johns Hopkins, and many other schools. There are no frills here, no gimmicks, just a focus on good design delivering the best educational engineering facilities.

Brown missed such an opportunity for a bold glazed design when Ballinger’s original proposal for the Sidney Frank Hall for Life Sciences was unfortunately clad in brick to appease College Hill neighbors more interested in a false notion of context than encouraging exceptional design.

At URI, however, the emphasis on natural light transforms what might have been just another science building. Architect Steelman is particularly proud of the glazing that wraps the fifth floor. This unitized curtain wall has an acid-etched first surface and a white fret as the second surface. Light filtered through this scrim is ever changing.

If we imagine the Fascitelli Center as a brilliant gesture at re-branding the university, it tells us loud and clear that URI is a place that will lead to, in the words of President David Dooley, “discoveries that we cannot even imagine today.”

GoLocal architecture critic Will Morgan has written extensively about university design and is the author of Collegiate Gothic: The Architecture of Rhodes College.

Engineering for a New World

The University of Rhode Island Magazine covered the opening of the Fascitelli Center for Advanced Engineering, designed and engineered by Ballinger.

Fall 2019 Magazine Cover

Excerpted from the University of Rhode Island Magazine:

The largest construction project in University history, The Fascitelli Center for Advanced Engineering opened its doors this fall, bringing all the engineering disciplines together in a space that actively supports hands-on, interdisciplinary research and defies departmental silos. The center features state-of-the-art research labs, student-oriented open space, and bold, modern design–transparent, airy, and centered around common work areas.

By Janine Liberty

From the smartphone to the Large Hadron Collider to France’s Millau Viaduct, some of the world’s greatest engineering marvels have been created in the last 20 years. Rapid advances in technology and material sciences have changed not just what’s possible in engineering, but what’s imaginable. Engineers are at the center of an era defined by unprecedented technological capabilities, and their creative and practical achievements are shaping the world in entirely new ways.

Collective Purpose

Just before classes began this fall, a group of engineering professors gathered in The Fascitelli Center for Advanced Engineering. Representing the full engineering faculty, this group comprises 22 of the college’s 74 faculty members, whose research and teaching will be shaped by the open space, transparent walls, and bridge-like architecture of the new facility.

Engineers are unique. Equal parts creative visionaries and doers, they are able to imagine technologies that will advance human potential, and construct the framework that will transform their ideas into reality. These engineers are also teachers, mentors, and guides—showing the next generation, who will be faced with some of the biggest problems the world has ever known, how to engineer solutions.

A New Space for a New Era of Research

URI’s College of Engineering is positioned to push the rapidly expanding boundaries of science and technology, and its new home, The Fascitelli Center for Advanced Engineering, is designed for this new era. With the opening of The Fascitelli Center for Advanced Engineering this fall,” says College of Engineering Dean Raymond M. Wright, “students can be educated differently, and researchers can collaborate more easily across disciplines.”

“This new facility will stimulate collaborative, multidisciplinary learning and research. It will lead to discoveries that we cannot even imagine today.”
–URI President David M. Dooley

“Increasingly, our engineering students and faculty are not only working in interdisciplinary teams within the college, but with students and faculty from across the University in oceanography, health, pharmacy, chemistry, computer science, and business as well as companies and corporations around the state, region, and the world,” URI President David M. Dooley says.

During preliminary meetings with the project’s principal architect, Terry Steelman, of the firm Ballinger of Philadelphia, Wright explained that he wanted to bring faculty together through research areas, not departments or disciplines. “One thing we know for sure is when we bring people together to solve challenges, it gets done,” says Wright.

The college will be organized around critical interdisciplinary research themes that address some of the biggest challenges the world faces: alternative energy, nanotechnology, robotics, cybersecurity, water for the world, biomedical technology, advanced materials and structures, and sensors and instrumentation.

The Fascitelli Center will support and encourage this interdisciplinary research by physically locating faculty from different disciplines near one another and adjacent to common research and meeting spaces. “Almost nothing in engineering anymore exists solely within a single discipline,” says Steelman. “This building is designed not just to advocate for, but to stimulate interdisciplinary discovery, so students can be educated differently, and researchers can collaborate across disciplines.”

“When the engineering disciplines combine, the sum is greater than its parts. URI engineering is building the future.”
–Dean Raymond M. Wright

“Our faculty are designing and building the infrastructure modern society relies on; finding innovative ways to harness energy from our sun, ocean, and even highways; building new medical diagnostic methods and devices; and racing to ensure every man, woman, and child has access to clean, safe water,” says Wright.

“This new facility will stimulate collaborative, multidisciplinary learning and research. It will lead to discoveries that we cannot even imagine today,” Dooley adds.

The new building was funded by two Rhode Island voter-approved bond issues, as well as private gift commitments from corporations including Toray Plastics (America), Inc.; FM Global; Taco; Hexagon; and Shimadzu; and from individual donors, including a $10 million gift from College of Engineering alumnus Michael D. Fascitelli ‘78, Hon. ‘08, and his wife, Elizabeth Fascitelli.

Learning Through Hands-On Research and Fieldwork

Working in robotics is like the Wild West in terms of the opportunities it presents,” says engineering student Robin Hall ‘20. “It’s always innovative, always changing, and there is always something new to work on.” Hall sits in the Intelligent Control and Robotics Lab surrounded by unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), robots, spare wires, and computers.

Situated on the fourth floor of the new engineering building, the robotics lab opens up to an expanse of glass that encloses the exterior hallway. From inside, you can look out over the northern edge of the Kingston Campus to the woodlands beyond. Hawks soar above the distant treetops, in effortless flight, while research teams inside devise robotic systems capable of agile, aerial movement.

“Working in robotics is like the Wild West in terms of the opportunities it presents.”
–Robin Hall ’20

This year, Hall has an independent research grant to develop a wall-traversing drone. “My idea employs a four-propeller UAV surrounded by an external cage that can rotate independently from the internal body of the robot. The cage will protect the vehicle and maintain stability.” Working with existing drone and cage designs, Hall’s innovation is to fix two axes and add a motor to the third axis to control the movement. “The quadcopter will behave like a wheel, rolling laterally against a wall surface.”

He’ll work with Paolo Stegagno, assistant professor of electrical, computer, and biomedical engineering, as his grant adviser. “As he designs and tests his UAV, Robin will gain advanced knowledge of control systems,” says Stegagno.

More research involvement–such as Hall’s–at the undergraduate level is important to the college; it means higher-quality senior projects, better internships, and more opportunities for students at all levels to learn from one another. Senior capstone projects are team-oriented and industry-driven, focusing on real-world challenges companies bring in for senior-year students to work on over the course of the academic year.

Making the capstone projects highly visible is meant not only to benefit students, but to attract industry. The projects are already an important point of entry for industry partners, having reliably translated to employment for graduates as well as research and economic partnerships with the University.

College of Engineering alumnus W. Lewis Collier, M.S. ‘86, Ph.D. ‘14, rapid engineering and prototype systems engineering manager for the MIL Corporation, and former technical director at Navmar Applied Sciences Corporation, supervised URI engineering students doing capstone projects at SRI International. He says URI’s capstone program “offers a valuable opportunity for students to apply and hone their engineering skills and learn about real-world problems and how engineers operate in the field.” Adds Collier, the program “is also important to the University’s mission to provide educated workers for Rhode Island businesses.”

A New Space for a New Era of Research

Great design is achieved through a balance of opposites. This 190,000-square-foot, five-story engineering building is a tour de force of design.

During the day, light streams throughout the enormous expanses of open space, constantly shifting in color, shadow, and intensity as it passes through surfaces of varying opacity. This effect is balanced by the density and stability of the building’s metal truss support system–which eliminates the need for interior support columns and allows for uninterrupted, open interiors–and sleek concrete floors.

“The glass of the building is both a metaphor and a physical manifestation of transparency and collaboration.”
—Dean Raymond M. Wright

The trusses, which span more than 150 feet of open space inside and are visible from the exterior of the building, are like those used for bridges, giving the building a bridge-like appearance, which emphasizes its physical siting between the older, humanities-focused buildings in the center of the Kingston Campus and the newer, science and technology-focused buildings on the north edge of campus.

In the new building, capstones will be a significant and highly visible part of the activity. More importantly, points out Wright, students from different research themes will be working in the same space. “You’ll have civil engineering and mechanical and biomedical capstone projects happening side by side.” In the building’s design, the Ballinger team combined the majority of the teaching environments on the first floors, so that students will be exposed to the interdisciplinary nature of the building.

“The quad level is a remarkable place,” says Wright. “We want our students to recognize that it’s their home. There are no faculty offices or research offices on that floor. It’s all about showcasing the hands-on aspects of engineering and building a creative atmosphere for students.”

Great architecture must also balance the experience of the individual with a collective purpose. Fascitelli credits Wright’s vision of bringing the college’s departments together as the driving force behind the building design. “Science as a whole has become so much more interactive, and the world is changing at such a rapid pace,” says Fascitelli. “You really need that cooperation between disciplines.”

Says Wright, “The glass of the building is both a metaphor and a physical manifestation of transparency and collaboration.”

“There’s nothing like this building in our portfolio. It’s unique to URI and I’m really proud of that,” says Steelman, adding that the center is “one of the most provocative and technologically advanced engineering buildings in the country.”

Hall is inspired by the new engineering space. “Being able to work in this space is an amazing upgrade,” he says. “It’s like a temple. It feels like you have the opportunity to do anything here.”

University of Rhode Island Features Ballinger Project

The Ballinger-planned, designed, and engineered Fascitelli Center for Advanced Engineering officially opened its doors in October 2019. It’s one of the most technologically advanced facilities in the country, featuring flexible spaces for interdisciplinary collaboration, and equipment essential to forward-looking research.

Excerpted from the University of Rhode Island’s Features:

Light streams through the walls of glass and into the enormous expanses of open space in the new 190,000-square-foot, six-story Fascitelli Center for Advanced Engineering, which officially opened on Monday, Oct. 7.

All of that open, light-filled space is the centerpiece of the building’s design, which University leaders saw as a way to enhance collaboration among faculty and students across all engineering disciplines.

The celebration marked a momentous day in URI history and a way to thank Rhode Islanders for their support of bond issues totaling $150 million to construct the Fascitelli Center and to expand and renovate Bliss Hall, the historic home of engineering at the University.

Michael D. Fascitelli, a 1978 graduate of the College of Engineering and a 2008 honorary degree recipient, and Elizabeth C. Fascitelli, made a $10 million gift in July to benefit the engineering college. Fascitelli credits Dean Raymond Wright’s vision of bringing the College’s departments together as the driving force behind the building design. “Science as a whole has become so much more interactive and the world is changing at such a rapid pace,” said Fascitelli. “You really need that cooperation between disciplines.”

The Fascitelli Center and the improved and expanded Bliss Hall, which first opened in 1928, will strengthen the College of Engineering’s leadership in the areas of clean energy, nanotechnology to robotics, cybersecurity, water for the world, biomedical technology, smart cities, and sensors and instrumentation.

“With the opening of The Fascitelli Center and Bliss Hall, students can be educated differently, and researchers can collaborate more easily across disciplines,” Dean Wright said. “This building is designed not just to advocate for, but to stimulate interdisciplinary connections and discovery.”

Commerce Secretary on Fascitelli Center: “We Will Power the Economy”

The Providence Journal covered the ribbon cutting ceremony for Ballinger’s Fascitelli Center for Advanced Engineering at the University of Rhode Island. During the event, Rhode Island Secretary of Commerce Stefan Pryor described the importance of engineering in the state, “Rhode Island is a place that engineers and builds things. We have throughout our history, but it’s part of our future as well. It’s a central part of our future. We are thrilled that there’s an engineering school that is of such an outstanding standard. Through this school we will create pipelines of talent that will serve our corporations. We will create great opportunities for our emerging young professional engineers, and we will power the economy.”

Link to article

Angela Fante Presents at ASCE-RI Meeting

Ballinger Associate Principal and Chief Structural Engineer, Angela M. Fante, PE, SECB, LEED AP, co-presented a talk titled “Thinking Big: Structuring the Future of URI Engineering” with David Odeh of Odeh Engineers. The presentation was given at the monthly meeting of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Rhode Island Section. Ballinger and Odeh are collaborating on the structural engineering of the University of Rhode Island College of Engineering. The presentation focused on the unique structural design challenges associated with the design of the building. Topics included the high capacity pile foundation system, lateral force resisting system, and the exposed-to-view steel trusses and connection detailing.

As partners on the project, Angie and David discussed the collaboration between OEI and Ballinger structural engineers and the importance of communication between the design team, construction manager, steel fabricator, and special inspectors on site.

University of Rhode Island College of Engineering Groundbreaking

Ballinger joined dignitaries including Governor Gina Raimondo, University of Rhode Island President David M. Dooley and URI College of Engineering Dean Raymond Wright for a ceremonial groundbreaking of the University’s new $125 million engineering complex.

The complex, designed by Ballinger, is the largest construction project in the University’s history. Its purpose is to enhance the visibility of engineering on the URI campus and attract the best faculty, students and industry partners.

The architecture will express and evoke the discipline of engineering: the key design feature is a truss support system, which eliminates the need for interior support columns and allows for uninterrupted open spaces. Ballinger is providing architecture as well as MEP and structural engineering services for the 190,000 SF facility, scheduled for completion in 2019.

Design Principal Terry Steelman and Senior Designer Zak Whiting attended the groundbreaking event, which included presentations by University leadership and the unveiling of 3D renderings.