University of Cincinnati, University Power Center

Cincinnati, Ohio

The university’s goal was to expand its central heating plant to accommodate the campus’ central chilling and cogeneration capacity, creating a new central University Power Center (UPC). However, it was concerned about the mass and bulk of the expanded building because the site was adjacent to an existing neighborhood and on top of a high ridge. Thus, the building form ADDITIONAL INFORMATIONASSOCIATED FIRMM. Engineering, Inc.COST PER SQ FT$300.00CITATIONSpecial CitationFEATURED IN2006 Architectural Portfolio be highly visible.

The design combined both horizontal and vertical building additions by building on top of the existing heating plant. The solution places 12 cooling towers along the top of the building over existing boilers and the added chillers, creating a virtual ”ocean liner” run aground in the heart of the campus. The building presented an imposing mass to the neighborhood, but it became an opportunity to be a major landmark.

In response to these concerns and opportunities, a metal “shroud” was created around the cooling towers to screen them from view and create an attractive image. The final design was a stainless-steel enclosure around the cooling towers creating a “diaphanous” screen of large, wing-shaped foils, spaced vertically around the perimeter of the cooling towers.

Carefully crafted lighting accentuates the misty, reflective quality of the louvered screen at night. The shimmering, reflective quality of light on stainless steel helps to diffuse the overall building mass on sunny or cloudy days. At night, the UPC glows mysteriously, like a silver cloud hovering over the site.

"An opportunity was taken here to create architecture out of what could have been a non-descript, functional mass."--2006 jury