Andlinger Center for Energy & the Environment
Architect: Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects | Partners
Owner: Princeton University
Location: Princeton, N.J.
Princeton University’s Andlinger Center for Energy & the Environment seeks to confront the world’s most pressing environmental issues, and this new building encourages interdisciplinary collaboration that supports new initiatives in energy resilience. Sitting on the northeast corner of Princeton’s campus, this project connects two existing buildings to form a more welcoming identity for the school’s engineering quadrangle.
The new center is bound on two sides by a masonry wall originally designed by McKim, Mead & White in 1911. Now covered in ivy, the wall spurred the concept of entering a garden, and the center interweaves a series of pathways, courtyards, and three three-story buildings into the landscape. The overall design allows the center to encompass a large and sensitive program while still respecting the existing campus vernacular.
Visitors enter through an opening in the vine-covered wall, which creates a distinct boundary that hints that something special awaits just beyond. On the other side, visitors encounter three gardens that connect to the center’s cluster of buildings that contain a conference center, offices, labs, a cleanroom, and an imaging center. Below grade, where more than half of the program is located, the buildings form a contiguous interconnected structure. This design choice avoided the creation of a series of imposing buildings while shielding the center from ambient vibrations that could disturb sensitive equipment.
The conference center anchors the center’s southwest corner and includes meeting rooms and an auditorium. Inside the auditorium, faceted planes define the space as light streams in through skylights and windows. The central building houses offices and research labs, and its lower level features a workspace for students and postdoctoral scholars with views of gardens at either end. The northernmost building contains cleanrooms suited for incredibly sensitive research and an analysis center.
Hand-molded gray brick adorns the center’s exterior, reflecting the university’s long tradition of masonry construction. Inside, felt tapestries enliven the space and depict abstracted images from the sketchbooks of renowned scientists, including Albert Einstein and Marie Curie.
Recognizing that no single discipline can address global energy problems, the center supports a variety of opportunities for people to connect. Its communal spaces are replete with whiteboards, moveable seating, and even sections for afternoon teas to prompt cross-disciplinary exchange. The walkways that wind through the gardens offer additional spaces to reflect and share ideas.