The task of designing the University of Virginia’s newest science and technology building was nothing if not daunting, said Paul Rice, namesake of Rice Hall, at its dedication on Friday: “Conceive a facility that is forward-looking and technologically inspiring at one of the most architecturally stunning places in the world.”
And build it with engineers looking over your shoulder.
“Piece of cake,” he said.
The six-story, 100,000-square-foot, $65.5 million building – the newest addition to the School of Engineering and Applied Science – was the star attraction at Friday’s ceremony, attended by hundreds of engineering benefactors, supporters, faculty and students on a cold but sunny morning. After a ribbon-cutting and reception, scientist and inventor Dean Kamen spoke in the handsome new Olsson Auditorium.
The opening of the Rice Hall Information Technology Engineering Building coincided with the 175th anniversary of the UVA Engineering School. The building serves collaborative researchers as the nexus of information technology engineering at UVA. It facilitates research and learning in areas that include high-performance computing, computer visualization, computer security, energy conservation, wireless communications, telemedicine, virtual reality, distributed multimedia and distance learning. The building also is home to the Computer Science Department and the computer engineering program.
The building was designed by Bohlin Cynwinski Jackson of Pittsburgh, which also designed the flagship Apple store on New York City’s Fifth Avenue, and built by W.M. Jordan Company of Richmond.
Rice, a 1975 graduate in electrical engineering, and his wife Gina made the lead gift of $10 million through the Rice Family Foundation. He said in his remarks that he was delighted to see the Lacy Engineering Lab buzzing with students collaborating on robots for a competition that would take place Monday. “They had robots racing around, shooting baskets, shinnying up ropes,” he said. “No one does anything by themselves anymore.”
“This is the 21st-century version of the Academical Village,” Dean James H. Aylor said during his dedication remarks. “Thomas Jefferson wanted buildings to teach.”
And Rice Hall is a teaching tool, he explained. Students and faculty can monitor its advanced operating systems, such as heat, air conditioning and energy consumption, and conduct experiments to improve performance. Trane, a manufacturer of home and commercial heating and air conditioning systems, was a lead partner in the development of this “living lab.”