“Working by calculation, engineers employ geometrical forms, satisfying our eyes by their geometry…their work is on the direct line of good art,” Le Corbusier described the engineer’s aesthetic. This kind of engineering expressionism is employed to interesting ends by Ennead Architects at the Engineering Education and Research Center (EERC) at the University of Texas at Austin’s Cockrell School of Engineering. The building features a dramatic glass-enclosed atrium that connects disciplines on a monumental staircase and provides sightlines into working laboratories, arranged like a page of comic book panels.
A glass ceiling spans the 80-foot-wide space, and two towers on either side contain multidisciplinary research labs and electrical and computer engineering research spaces, respectively. The unification of disciplines in the atrium is expressed through a series of expressive parts: A truss-like bridge, a bespoke waterjet-cut spiral staircase, and slanted columns below the mezzanine level all show off the aesthetic of an engineer rather than one seamless whole. This honesty is a direct appeal to the students and engineering community who will inevitably congregate in the atrium.