University of Arkansas Epley Center for Health Professions

The university intended to create a new home for the School of Nursing and the Hearing and Speech clinic, and had identified the old Student Health Clinic building and site as the location for the project. Although the two programs were aggregated as “health professions”, they really had very different requirements. The Hearing and Speech program worked almost exclusively with graduate students, and operated as a clinic seeing patients every day. The nursing school served primarily undergraduate students, and did not provide any clinical services to the public.

In addition to the challenges involved in co-locating two programs with such different populations and operational models, there were extreme physical limitations imposed by the site and existing building. The old student health center had limited floor-to-floor heights that would not accommodate the infrastructure required for state of the art classrooms and teaching labs of the sizes required for the nursing school. The site available for the new addition was a long, linear area, bounded on one side by the existing building and on the other by a steep ravine.

The solution to the site constraints was to develop the addition as a parallel block to the existing, with a connecting spine between the two. To achieve the required floor to floor heights in the addition, the second floor elevation was held to that of the existing, but the new first floor was dropped two feet, and the new roof was raised two feet. As the site dropped sharply away from the existing building at the area where the addition was planned, dropping the floor was easily accommodated, and actually reduced the amount of earthwork required. As the addition was taller than the existing building, the connecting spine was able to incorporate clearstory windows that introduced natural light into the center of the building. Light wells in the central spine allowed the light to reach both the second and first floor public circulation spaces.

The addition holds the classrooms, and teaching labs as these areas require the higher ceilings and more sophisticated building systems that the new construction provides. The existing building was renovated to house the hearing and speech clinic on the first floor and faculty office spaces on the second because these spaces could more easily be accommodated within the constraints imposed by the existing structure. The arrangement allows the clinic to function independently of the school, while still encouraging collaboration among the two faculties.

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