As plans for the university’s new engineering, design and computer development, Chancellor Michelle Marks used one word to describe the project: spectacular. Not only in how she transforms the Speer Boulevard corridor, but also in her purpose and mission to create a fairer engineering education and workforce talent pipeline. In mid-March, the project hit a major milestone when campus leaders selected the internationally acclaimed and locally represented SmithGroup to design the building.
“SmithGroup is one of the nation’s leaders in the higher education space,” said Jered Minter, campus architect for CU Denver. “They have demonstrated an extraordinary amount of hands-on experience designing higher education engineering labs and spaces across the country.”
In addition to the company’s impressive technical capability and strong portfolio of projects, including the design of the first academic building on the Virginia Tech Innovation Campus and the University of Texas at the Dallas Engineering Building, those close to the project say the vision SmithGroup aligns with CU Denver’s values, including diversity, equity and innovation.
The building will be an “integrated catalyst” for the innovation district
CU Denver first announced plans to pursue the new engineering, design and computer science building last October, with construction expected to begin in late 2022 and finish in the 2024-2025 academic year. In addition to housing the College of Engineering, Design and Computing and leveraging IT and technology initiatives across the campus, the building will serve as the anchor of an open innovation district, as outlined in goal four of CU Denver’s 2030 strategic plan. This district will cultivate new technology, partnerships, programming, diverse talent, and in-demand jobs, all in one hub located in the heart of downtown Denver.
Martin Dunn, dean of the College of Engineering, Design and Computing, said the building will be a game changer for CEDC and CU Denver, providing students with state-of-the-art facilities that support computer-oriented study and pedagogy programs and to design. “This is essential as technology is changing faster than ever and the industry is asking engineers to do new types of work that require more creativity, teamwork and collaboration across disciplines,” said Dunn. “It will also amplify our research into important areas such as artificial intelligence, cybersecurity and robotics, where emerging technologies are transforming health, construction, manufacturing, cities and space. It will enable our faculty and students to work together with industry partners to address some of society’s great challenges. “
To date, innovation districts have advanced dozens of global cities across the United States, including Boston, Philadelphia, and Atlanta. By prioritizing venue creation and mixed-use sustainable development, CU Denver’s Innovation District will leverage mixed spaces that encourage creative thinking, power living labs, fuel the future of discovery, and promote equity in computing.
As the anchor of this open innovation district, the engineering, design and information technology building will be an “integrated catalyst,” said Anthony Graves, managing director of partnerships and innovation, activating unconventional partnerships and preparing students for work. of the future.
“People are the real core of SmithGroup’s design process. They pride themselves on thinking about all elements of human-centered design, creating beautiful and sustainable spaces that support learning and creating places, “said Graves.” The new engineering building will inspire creativity and collaboration that will set the tone. to our open innovation district, because people will naturally gravitate towards space. “
SmithGroup’s values are in line with CU Denver’s 2030 Strategic Plan
On November 1, 2021, CU Denver submitted a Qualification Request (RFQ) to find a design partner to assist in providing guidance on planning, architecture, engineering and other consulting services for the building. In addition to their expertise and experience, SmithGroup exemplifies CU Denver’s immense interest and passion for engineering, design and computer science and its role in the Strategic Plan 2030. “They bring a level of excitement to the project that is parallel and amplifies that of the university, “Minter said. “They will go deep into this project with us and are 100% committed to the success of the project.”
SmithGroup is one of the leading integrated design companies in the world. Working across a network of 15 offices in the US and China, including an office in Denver, their team is committed to excellence in strategy, design and delivery, and creating inspiring places that improve the environment. The company’s areas of expertise include higher education and cultural institutions, scientific and technological organizations, urban environments and diverse workplaces, among others.
“Our SmithGroup team couldn’t be more excited to partner with CU Denver on this long-awaited flagship project,” said Mecayla Cobb, leader of SmithGroup’s Denver Higher Education Firm and Principal Project Manager. “We look forward to designing a facility that will establish connections, foster innovation and future growth, incorporate sustainability, and showcase cutting-edge, hands-on learning for CU Denver and our surrounding community.”
Mark Kranz, SmithGroup Vice President and Director of Design, said, “The new engineering, design and computation building at CU Denver represents a bold and pivotal strategic investment for the institution and is seen as a key catalyst for the new ‘Open Innovation. District. Not only will the new facility become an iconic and symbolic platform for the university’s ambitious strategic plan, it will also transform the student experience, the College of Engineering, Design and Computing curriculum, and the campus-wide recruiting position. international”.
The key principles will guide the planning process
Project leaders at JLL, CU Denver’s real estate management and consulting firm, have developed a list of guiding principles to consider at every stage of the planning process, from design renderings to the groundbreaking opening day. At the forefront of all decisions are equity, accessibility, innovation, discovery, community and flexibility. These principles will ensure that the building supports and leverages the five goals of the university’s Strategic Plan 2030, including becoming the first institution serving equity in the nation.
“We are committed to building an inclusive space that is accessible and accessible to all,” said Minter.
Additionally, SmithGroup has expressed a deep commitment to involving the campus and the community in its planning process. Throughout the design process, the company will host a number of town halls to share updates and gather feedback. More information will be made available to the campus community as details are finalized.
At a March design team meeting, Marks left SmithGroup reps with a bold request: “I want you to do something bigger, better, and different than anyone else has done before,” he said.