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Duke Institute for Brain Sciences


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Duke University


  • Chris Roberts, AIA

Project Status


Year Completed



11,000 sq. feet



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Project Description

This design converted a former mechanical space into a leading-edge collaborative workspace for a multidisciplinary brain research center, ultimately allowing the university client to streamline operations and better serve the wider community. The 11,000 SF renovation welcomes both people and light into an underground facility through a dramatic glass cube light shaft. The new space is warm, vibrant, and tactile; a distinctive vertical wood element at the glass cube entry morphs into a wood ceiling which unifies and defines the space below.

This central double-height gathering area encourages program overlap through visual connection, flexible spaces which flow into each other as functions require, and a variety of spaces for both structured and informal gathering. Designed for efficiency and collaboration, the new space provides opportunities for maximum creative collisions. The program includes collaborative space, 2 wet labs, flexible education space, and offices. Materials include acoustical wood paneling, a terrazzo floor, and sleek garage doors to divide the space.

The new facility repurposes an outmoded space as something unique and dynamic. Exposed mechanical elements such as pipes, chases, and conduits, painted white for visual unity, celebrate the space’s former function. Exposed concrete contrasts with sleek metal and warm wood for a modern industrial aesthetic. Custom furniture used for informal gatherings, touchdown space, and individual study is tailored to the subtle forms and angles of the mezzanine level. Ring lights in the central atrium draw the eye upward, while the garage doors enclosing the lecture space hint at vertical motion.
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