The E.A. Fernandez IDEA Factory at the University of Maryland’s A. James Clark School of Engineering has a gravity-defying form: The seven-story building’s solid upper floors emerge above the lighter, mostly glass base. Designed by EYP, the project, which took three years to construct, recently had its official grand opening.
Exterior materials include dichroic glass and ironspot brick that change color throughout the day depending on sunlight and weather conditions. Both materials represent significant deviations from the traditional campus architectural language. At night, façade lighting allows the building to stand out as a beacon for the Clark School of Engineering.
Inside, the 60,000 sf structure houses more than 20 laboratories. The non-traditional interior is designed to be flexible with “pods” that can be shifted into multiple arrangements depending on group size or project scope. Activities in these spaces could include everything from classroom education to research to prototyping. Walls can be easily reconfigured, providing the university ease in adapting to new research demands.
“We designed a building that is unconventional in every way,” said Charles Kirby, Senior Principal, Academic Planning and Design, EYP. “Specialized research spaces concealed in the flexible ‘factory’ that float above the glass base reveal the undergraduate entrepreneurial spaces that are central to the Clark Engineering school’s mission.”
Prominent collaborative spaces—one of the hallmarks of the IDEA Factory’s design—offer bright, bold pops of color that help define space types while activating inspiration and creativity. Nicknamed the “IDEA Factory,” the building’s street level offers open views for onlookers to peer inside. On this level, undergraduates share tools in the Rapid Prototyping Lab, prepare for design competitions in the ALEx Garage innovation workspace, and work on next-generation apps in the Startup Shell, an incubator for student-run startups. The Shell already has generated more than 180 ventures valued at $100 million.
Owner: University of Maryland
Design architect: EYP
Architect of record: EYP
MEP engineer: EYP
Structural engineer: Hope Furrer Associates
General contractor/construction manager: Clark Construction (design-build delivery method)