Approximately 6,930 miles from the flagship campus in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S.A., Carnegie Mellon University has a new home. The 460,000-square-foot facility in Education City is a three-story architectural wonder that features open spaces, water features and a warm palette of colors.
“The philosophy of the Carnegie Mellon building is connected to the social experience of the university. Carnegie Mellon wanted to be the heart of Education City,” says building architect Ricardo Legorreta. “Having two sides of the building with a green spine in the middle was the basis of the design. Similar to buildings in other cultures, this design creates space for people to pass through and circulate.”
An aerial view of the building shows something of an unusual footprint with a half circle on one side and a rectangle on the other, but the abnormal design was purposeful. By straddling the East-West Walkway, the building creates a spacious breezeway that welcomes everyone from Education City. Palm trees and water features line the outdoor path that leads into the three-story, glass ceiling walkway.
Trees continue into the building, creating a space alive with greenery and flooded with natural light. Walls are made of geometric mosaics of wood and stained glass, while bridges across the walkway join the two sides of the building. The walkway opens up on the south side the into the food court. With comfortable seating, natural light and a food servery, it’s always packed with students studying, eating, hanging out or sleeping.
“The heart of Carnegie Mellon is people coming together, to teach, to study, to do research. We’re blessed with a wonderful space that encourages that kind of collaborative, active, cross-disciplinary learning,’ says Charles E. Thorpe, Dean.
Beyond the food court is a large assembly area that can hold in excess of 400 people. Carnegie Mellon is the only building in Education City designed with a space that can accommodate such a large number of people for an event. The assembly area features colorful tiered Majlis-style seating, a water feature and a plinth with etched quotes from Andrew Carnegie and The Emir of Qatar.
The north side of the building is home to the tranquil VIP courtyard. Open to two floors of offices and classrooms, the focal point of the space is a large water feature designed for easy drainage so the space can be used for events. The open ceiling, blue walls and rippling water reflect light during the day and cast inspiring shadows as night falls.
In addition to the large common spaces, Carnegie Mellon Qatar’s new building features 11 state-of-the-art classrooms, 5 computer classrooms, 5 labs, 5 lecture halls, a library, 12 meeting rooms, four study rooms, two prayer rooms, 149 offices/workstations and two lounges.
“From the very beginning, the plan has centered on the idea of making a place for learning and development of the highest order; a place for teaching and research; and a community of teachers and students,” says Kevin Lamb, Assistant Dean for Planning. “Qatar Foundation inspired and supported a design that would do all of this plus make an elegant statement that the intention of Education City is to be a world-class place for teaching and learning, for growth and development of students from Qatar, the Middle East and beyond.”
The building, which was provided to Carnegie Mellon by Qatar Foundation, is situated in the 2,500-acre Education City campus between Weill Cornell Medical Collage in Qatar and Texas A&M University at Qatar. Other universities with branch campuses in Education City include Virginia Commonwealth University, Georgetown School of Foreign Service and Northwestern University.
Ceremonial groundbreaking of the Carnegie Mellon building took place May 17, 2006. Actual construction work began that summer. Construction continued around the clock for two years. Some 2,300 workers were on site at any given time to meet the Aug. 1, 2008 move in day.
Having this new building means more to the students, staff and faculty than having a permanent place to unpack boxes and hang photos. After four years and two temporary locations, this building gives Carnegie Mellon a solid foothold in Qatar, and as Thorpe says, somewhere for the university to call home.
“We’re far from the main campus in distance, but we can bring the same spirit to Qatar that Andrew Carnegie first brought to Pittsburgh when he wrote, ‘my heart is in the work.’”
6,400 metric tons of steel
11 cranes, 7 excavators
33 “tipper” trucks to haul soil and rock away
87, 173 cubic meters of excavated soil and rock
1,590 kilometers of data & electrical cables
38,283 cubic meters of concrete
25,000 square meters of duct work
9,050 lighting fixtures
734 interior doors
875 square meters of whiteboard
2,516 square meters of exterior glass
40,309 square meters of exterior/interior stone facade
About the Architects
Known for the ability to conceive of spaces that suit needs, appetites and emotions, Legorreta and Legorreta combines pure and timeless forms that instill clarity into complicated projects. Using light, water and dramatic colors, spaces are designed to intensify the personal experience of the people in the buildings. Even in large complexes like the Chiron Laboratories or the Egade Graduate School, privacy and simplicity is preserved.
The application of color is a most important priority, especially in projects set in their native Mexico. All of these ingredients integrate architecture, landscaping and interior decoration into a single discipline that respects the place and the traditions.
Legorreta and Legorreta also designed the Texas A&M University at Qatar building, which next to the Carnegie Mellon site, and are designing the building for Georgetown University and the Student Center at Education City. For more information, visit LEGORRETA + LEGORRETA.