February 23, 2016

Author: Andrew Greenman, '10

Gallaudet University began 2016 with the much anticipated renovation of the Hall Memorial Building's (HMB) third and fourth floors. Incorporating DeafSpace principles along with input from students and faculty, the year-long, $17 million project by Campus Design and Planning includes new science labs, classrooms, offices, student and faculty lounge areas, and a visually open stairway linking the third and fourth floors with an adjacent feature wall. 

The feature wall, named Spectra Silhouette, is a sculpted millwork screen inspired by the work of two deaf astronomers at the turn of the 20th century, when they made significant advancements in the understanding of celestial objects.  

"The project provides significant improvements and expansion of Gallaudet's outdated science lab facilities to meet the future enrollment, instructional, and research needs of the Department of Science, Technology, and Mathematics," said Hansel Bauman, executive director of Campus Design and Planning and co-founder of the DeafSpace project.  

A highlight is the makeover of the science labs, which includes elongated hexagon shaped lab counters that can seat small groups instead of the typical, straight and long counters, floor patterns offering visual cues that separate spaces, ventilation hoods with reflections, and high transom windows on the walls between the labs providing a sense of movement of others in the space while minimizing visual distractions for lab occupants.  

Other renovations include the following:      

  • A new pedestrian connector between the north and south wings on the fourth floor.
  • A new, two-story student collaboration and lounge space that allows visual connection between occupants on the third and fourth floors, encouraging social interaction.
  • Intersections designed to allow visual access to occupants approaching from other corridors to prevent accidental, physical contact.
  • Structural columns within circulation spaces painted a color darker than the walls to provide contrast, making them more visible peripherally while signed conversations take place, and to help people with low vision.  

Dr. Derek Braun, '95, biology professor and director of the Biology Program and the Molecular Genetics Laboratory, sees the lab renovation as advantageous for students and faculty alike. "Working in groups is the best way to prepare students for their future jobs, where they will collaborate with others.  It also promotes active learning as opposed to the teacher lecturing," said Braun.  

Dr. Genie Gertz, '92, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, shared her enthusiasm about the renovations. "DeafSpace connects to the community in ways that are noteworthy, eliminating barriers and ensuring transparency and connections," said Gertz. "The new, DeafSpace-influenced design ties together the main principles of DeafSpace and brings our facilities into the 21st century, all to support student learning and research."  

Click here for more information on DeafSpace.  

Project Credits
Architect: Studio Twenty Seven Architecture
General Contractor: Harvey-Cleary Builders
Lighting Design: MAG Lighting
Laboratory Planners: SST Planners
Mechanical, Electrical, Plumbing and Fire Protection: Interface Engineers
Structural Engineer: Robert Silman Associates
Owner's Representative: Savills Studley
Campus Design and Planning
Gallaudet Technology Services
Facilities Department
Department of Public Safety
Gallaudet Interpreting Services