Spy vs. Spy

SOM breaks ground on world’s first cyber security education center

Architecture East News
SOM's Hopper Hall at the U.S. Naval Academy is the first academic building devoted solely to cyber-security education. (Courtesy SOM / Smilodon)
SOM's Hopper Hall at the U.S. Naval Academy is the first academic building devoted solely to cyber-security education. (Courtesy SOM / Smilodon)

Many are worried that draft-dodging president-elect Trump will soon have his tiny, tiny hands on the nuclear codes, but thanks to the foresight of U.S. Navy personnel, the commander-in-chief will also have access to midshipmen trained to combat a great threat of our age: cyber warfare.

The forward-thinking folks at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland are equipping students for a world where hackers can paralyze Facebook and Twitter with some well-placed code, burrow into government email servers, or launch a cupcake counterinsurgency. Enter SOM:

“Our design for Hopper Hall will serve the Naval Academy’s mission to equip a new generation of leaders with the knowledge and resources to protect the nation against 21st-century threats,” said Roger Duffy, design partner at SOM, in a statement. The first facility devoted to cybersecurity studies at any military academy, six-story Hopper Hall is a design-build partnership between the global firm and Turner Construction.

Hopper Hall pays homage to the school’s waterfront connection while preserving seaside views from the historic campus core. The most typical component of the 206,400-square-foot building, a multi-purpose space called “The Bridge,” anchors labs, offices, classrooms, and simulated learning spaces that would be totally bizarre anywhere else: A “secure compartmented intelligence facility space” allows students to handle classified information, while a research and “testing tank” assist an engineering and weapons lab.

The $106.7 million building is named for Rear Admiral Grace Hopper, an American computer scientist who during World War II worked on the first computer, the Harvard Mark 1. The Naval Academy’s curriculum responds to the growing threat of hacking: All students are required to take cyber security classes, and the school’s first graduates in the cyber operations major finished their degrees this year. Current cyber ops majors will be able to take their classes in Hopper Hall when it opens in 2019.

SOM, meanwhile, is no stranger to patriotic architecture: Close to Annapolis, the firm is working on the U.S. Census Bureau Headquarters in Suitland, Maryland, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia. Farther afield in Colorado, SOM unveiled its Center for Character and Leadership Development at the U.S. Air Force Academy this year.

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