UC Irvine Humanities Gateway tops out

January 20, 2009 |



The University of California, Irvine Humanities Gateway topped out on January 15, 2009 with a final roof concrete pour for the cast-in-place structure. Awarded to Fentress Architects and Hensel Phelps Construction Co. through a design competition in May 2007, the building will be completed in July 2009.


Fentress Architects’ design represents the University’s vision for “a sense of unforeseen possibilities.” On one side of the building, the formal façade reflects its historical context by harmonizing with the campus’ existing architectural vocabulary; on the opposing face it breaks free, expressing the concepts of inquiry and delight characteristic of the Humanities.

Fentress Architects implemented an innovative architectural process to create a serpentine, crystalline wall that achieves a dazzling, ultra-modern look. The glass and metal wall system spans the courtyard side of the building from floor to ceiling on all four levels. The challenge was to create a completely random pattern of 1, 2, 3, and 4-foot panels for a spontaneous feel.

Fentress employed a software program to develop a ‘random’ pattern in which no panel aligns with another in a vertical line. Not only does this solution create a spectacular geode effect, it also relaxes the construction tolerance and increases the item repetition. This directly results in a savings of materials (aluminum), cost, labor and time. The design team worked closely with Hensel Phelps Construction Co. to achieve a highly artistic and cost-effective solution while optimizing construction quality.

Humanities Gateway will become, at a minimum, LEED certified through the implementation of green design in the following categories: sustainable site, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, indoor environmental quality, materials/resources and design innovations. The building systems are designed to operate efficiently, be easily maintained and contribute to a highly energy-efficient and sustainable operation.

The design optimizes use of outdoor spaces in response to its temperate, southern California climate. Two first-floor conference rooms open to the courtyard with a sliding glass-wall panel system, expanding event space to the outdoors for special functions. Utilizing daylight along the perimeter of the building via large glass panels, use of artificial lighting is minimized, thereby reducing energy consumption. The courtyard, building terraces, and light courts create opportunities to extend the learning environment and host receptions and various functions.

Two three-story light wells, located in the heart of the building, allow natural daylight to fill the building’s center and provide refreshing outdoor spaces on the second floor.

Humanities Gateway will be the fifth building in the Humanities quad and will include such elements as a 110-seat auditorium, film studio, art and art history classrooms and offices and the International Center for Languages and Translation. The building is scheduled for completion in summer 2009.

Client: University of California, Irvine
Design-builder: Hensel Phelps Construction Co.
Architect: Fentress Architects
Cost: $29 million
Size: 76,000 SF
Contract type: Design-Build

Hensel Phelps Construction Co. and Fentress Architects have completed 54 projects together, which are valued in excess of $4.3 billion. They have one of the strongest, most award-winning, design-build histories in the industry. Their portfolio includes the LEED EB Platinum California Department of Education Headquarters in Sacramento, the City of Oakland Administration Buildings and the Colorado Convention Center.



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