Traditional Building Portfolio




Addition: Duke Divinity

Project: Westbrook Building, Divinity School, Duke University, Durham, NC

Architect: Hartman-Cox Architects, LLC, Washington, DC; Warren J. Cox, FAIA, senior partner; Lee Becker, FAIA, partner in charge

General Contractor: Skanska USA Building, Inc., Parsippany, NJ

By Hadiya Strasberg

Of Duke University's west campus, novelist Aldous Huxley wrote that it was "genuinely beautiful, the most successful essay in neo-Gothic that I know." The architecture that defines the 467-acre campus and so impressed Huxley was designed by architect Julian Abele of Horace Trumbauer, Architect, of Philadelphia, PA, in the early-20th century. Later additions have not always been stylistically sympathetic, but one of the most recent constructions, an addition to the Divinity School, skillfully references the language of the original campus buildings.

The original building that housed the Divinity School (Old Divinity) was built in 1930 and an addition (New Divinity) was built in 1970. The latter structure is truly of its time; it is nondescript with a flat roof and little detailing. It has small rooms and few common spaces. When the school outgrew this space, Hartman-Cox Architects, LLC, of Washington, DC, was hired to design a second addition. The Westbrook Building adds three levels and 45,000 sq.ft. of much-needed classroom, office and common space, as well as the Goodson Chapel.

Working around the New Divinity wing was a challenge. "We were looking to create compatibility with the existing buildings on campus," says Lee Becker, FAIA, partner in charge at Hartman-Cox Architects, "but the one building that was adjacent to our site was uninspiring to say the least." Becker knew that he could not ignore it, though, and came up with a few ways to link the new and old buildings together. "We covered the west side of the 1970s wing by abutting it with our building," says Becker. "But we couldn't surround it, so we referenced the building somewhat by stepping down the scale of our addition, exchanging stone for brickwork and modernizing the fenestration."

Senior Partner Warren J. Cox, FAIA, is quick to point out that this was done only for budgetary reasons. "The design of the classroom wing relates in color and somewhat in character to the New Divinity wing," he says, "but we didn't do that off the bat to be sympathetic to the old addition. If we had had the budget, we would have designed the entire building in the Gothic style and with more traditional materials and detailing." A major portion of the new building is Collegiate Gothic. "The campus buildings have a hierarchy," Becker explains, "from the Duke Chapel, the renowned centerpiece of the campus, at the top to the academic and administrative buildings and then to the residential and service buildings at the bottom. For Westbrook, we chose to work in the mold of the academic buildings."

The design for Westbrook was also determined by the university president and the board of trustees. "Initially, everybody was terrified of this project because of the proximity to the renowned Duke Chapel and the center of campus," says Cox. "We investigated more modern, stripped-down versions but quickly came to the consensus that Westbrook should look as though it was part of the Abele-designed campus."

This dictated a veneer made of Duke Stone – the university owns and operates its own quarry – as well as Indiana limestone tracery, detailing, chimney pots and spires. All of the original Trumbauer buildings were constructed of Duke Stone, a blend of seven primary colors and 17 shades of gray, beige, browns, rusts and blues. Hartman-Cox Architects used 14,500 sq.ft. of 10-in. solid Duke Stone, which was hand-cut and installed by Rugo Stone, Inc., of Lorton, VA.

"Even the New Divinity building is made of Duke Stone," says Becker, "but its appearance is different from that of the older buildings. The campus architect conducted some research for us and found a note written by a masonry foreman who had worked on the Horace Trumbauer buildings, which detailed the methods of cutting and laying the stone. The stone of the old buildings has a crisp, hard-edge, while the more recent buildings share stone that is smaller, more rounded and inconsistent due to blasting and ripping at the quarry. We resurrected the old method of working at the quarry to get results similar to those of the old buildings."

Both Duke Chapel and the arcade that connects it to Old Divinity have distinctive batten-seam lead-coated copper roofing, so Hartman-Cox Architects specified matching roofing for Westbrook. "We matched the roof details exactly," says Becker. "The batten seam is even rounded on top like the other roofs." Like the other Trumbauer-designed campus buildings, Westbrook also features expansive windows and tall ceiling heights. "But not as tall as Duke Chapel," says Becker, "which is almost a cathedral at three times the height of the Westbrook Building. In comparison, Westbrook is a support building."

Hartman-Cox Architects had to deal not only with referencing the existing buildings, but also with an uneven topography. "The design takes advantage of a [26-ft.] slope," says Cox, "but it could easily have been a hindrance in siting the new building. We created three terraced floors between the New Divinity wing and the Memorial Wall on the west, completing the cloister that was begun by New Divinity and Duke Chapel. The upper and middle levels of our addition align with the first and basement floors of Old and New Divinity. Due to the size of the new classrooms, the lower level of the addition is depressed into grade and doesn't align with any of the existing floors of New or Old Divinity. Ramps and stairs provide the connections."

Two grand stair halls are the spine of the building. "The real trick to connecting the interior spaces down the hill is the conception of stair halls," says Cox. "They run from the south to the north right through the building down the hill." What is most interesting is that the stairs are not simple, straight runs, but curving forms. "We had a data point at the bottom of the hill and one at the top of the hill and then we stepped everything off of that," explains Cox. "The result is two dramatic, curving flights of steps under engraved arches. Placing the stairs was a real balancing act, because we also had to relate to the levels in the New Divinity building."

The arcade between Duke Chapel and Old Divinity presented another connectivity issue. "At a space slightly north of the Old Divinity exit to the arcade, we created a connection from Old Divinity to the third floor of Westbrook," says Becker. "We created a connection on the lower and mid levels as well. We chose this spot because it was centrally located and we could install an elevator to reach all of the floors of both buildings." If the stair halls are the spine, the new chapel is the heart of the addition. Goodson Chapel, located on the mid level between Memorial Garden and the parking lot to the north, seats 315 people. "This location is ideal," says Becker, "because the chapel can be easily accessed from both directions. Locating the main floor of the chapel on the mid level reduces its height relative to Duke Chapel, which produces a massing that comfortably cascades down the hill."

The style of the chapel follows that of its 1930s neighbors – Collegiate Gothic – but is also simple and flexible. "Because it's a teaching chapel, we created a flexible open space instead of an axial plan," says Cox. "This was the character the university requested of us. Some of the detail was determined by the acoustics and the organ supplier – there is an organ balcony – but otherwise we followed the university's lead."

Goodson Chapel features 55-ft.-high heavy-timber ceilings, an architectural-grade southern-pine ceiling deck and stile-and-rail quartersawn solid-white-oak doors. Rustic-buff Indiana limestone was employed for the tracery and window surrounds, the convex curved panels in the lower wall, the bosses at the base of the trusses and the sloped sills and trim. "Rustic buff is found on buildings throughout the campus," says Becker. "It has a lot of fossils and inclusions that select buff does not."

Hartman-Cox Architects custom designed the light fixtures, which were fabricated by Baldinger Architectural Lighting of Astoria, NY. The Century Guild, Ltd., of Carrboro, NC, designed the custom wood chancel furniture. At this point, the chapel is without stained-glass windows. These may be added in the future, budget willing. The clear-paned aluminum windows, from Moduline Window Systems of Wausau, WI, are a customized version of the company's model #34P Renaissance System windows.

Offices, two classrooms and a refectory make up the remainder of the spaces on the mid level. More offices and conference rooms are located at the east side of the upper level. At the west is the Goodson Chapel balcony.

The refectory seats 200 people and additional seating can be found on the roof terrace to the north. "These are spaces that promote collegiality and teacher-student interaction," says Cox. "We made sure to include these in our program, because the Old and New Divinity buildings don't provide them.

The older buildings have long, relatively narrow, double-loaded corridors and no central public orientation areas or circulation hubs." Westbrook, he says, has a more centrally oriented arrangement. "It's radial rather than linear. New circulation hubs and focus spaces have been incorporated in the plan at the entrances and adjacent to the new chapel and refectory."

The landscaping design, by Lappas + Havener, PA, of Durham, was an important component that ties the Westbrook site to Old Divinity at the east, the garden at the south and Duke Woods, already a mature landscape, at the west. "We worked around a lot of the existing landscaping," says Becker. "We also made ADA connections at the south, incorporating them seamlessly into the existing spaces." Flagstone paving was used to line most of the paths.

In 2005, after about two years of construction, the Westbrook addition was completed. "Horace Trumbauer's last building at Duke University opened in the late 1950s," says Becker, "but I can imagine passersby thinking that our building, which came almost 50 years later, was of his time." TB

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