Norman Hackerman Building at the University of Texas at Austin

The 300,000-square-foot, 126-million Norman Hackerman Building NHBhousing several disciplines requiring advanced lab facilitiesrepresents a new direction for campus buildings at the flagship Austin campus of the University of Texas UT. Having a sustainable design objective, CO Architects created a contemporary building that continues to respect the campus design guidelines. With the LEED Gold NHBs success, UT Austin has made a commitment to developing a sustainable, modern campus to reflect its world-class academic and research facilities and to help the university draw exceptional talent.

The long, narrow building marks its presence with a dramatic, four-story, recessed glass volume symbolizing openness to thought and research processes. The volume contains conference rooms, lounges, and other common spaces meant to encourage interaction. Replacing an obsolete 1950s Experimental Sciences Building, NHB is designed to embrace interdisciplinary and collaborative studies in life sciences. To that end, CO Architects optimized the configuration to accommodate four very different laboratory typologies ranging from computation and neurosciences, to traditional wet labs and organic chemistryusually placed in separate buildings or wingswith a common footprint and infrastructure, giving each discipline both the flexibility for change as well as its necessary technology. The pedagogy of collaboration and interaction is expressed in the variety of break-out areas and lounges for students, researchers, and professors to engage in spontaneous discussions and easy group rapport. Spaced strategically throughout the building, adjacent to open stairways and kitchenettes, some of the communal spaces are outfitted with white boards and conference tables, while othersparticularly those outsideare more casual spaces to relax and recharge.

Campus design guidelines for buildings within the historic campus core, calling for distinct bases, mid-sections, and tops, were followed by CO Architects while creating a contemporary building. The two-story base faade is made from light buff limestone similar in hue to the granite on the signature University of Texas Tower, which is visible from the new facility. The base is composed of a syncopated rhythm of solids and voids that form a backdrop to the broad tree-lined avenue following the length of the building. The middle layer combines red-brown brick matching adjacent buildings with glass.

The roof represents a marked departure from the traditional red-tile roofs, which would have been inappropriate, given the height and scale of the building. Instead, CO Architects created a large overhang as a support for solar hot-water generation. The expansive, perforated-steel roof overhang allows filtered light to penetrate in the winter, while also providing shade to the entire south faade in the summer. The play of light through the south-side mounted perforated steel is a contemporary interpretation of the older, traditional overhangs on campus that often feature visible undersides of painted buttresses or other decoration.

The main entrance is a two-story atrium at the southeast corner that opens onto a tree-covered plaza, which is a gathering place for students, staff, and pedestrians who approach from Speedway Mall the main campus thoroughfare. Above the entrance, the four-story glass volume contains informal lounges featuring sofas, tables, and chairs, and wheeled marker boards. Filled with light, and providing dramatic views to the surrounding campus, the recessed volume results in a landscaped outdoor terrace overlooking the entrance plaza.

The new building follows the same footprint as the previous structure, and has two secondary entrances on its south side that maintain existing pedestrian circulation paths. These entrances are now marked by a recessed, two-story porch with informal seating, offering a welcome respite from the hot Texas sun.


Project Type


Austin, 78712,