Department outgrows office, starts construction

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The UT Department of Computer Science has outgrown its offices in Taylor Hall on Speedway between 23rd and 24th streets. To make room for future growth in the department, the University will construct a 140,000-square-foot complex named for donors Bill and Melinda Gates.

Officials broke ground on the new $63 million complex Friday, less than a week after the Faculty Council passed a resolution calling for a suspension of new construction on campus.

More than half of the funding for the new Bill and Melinda Gates Computer Science Complex and Dell Computer Science Hall — $40 million — will come from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation. An additional $23 million, which will come from UT or additional donors, is needed to complete the project.

The department has worked toward constructing a new building for eight years. Faculty and students have been spread around five to seven buildings, said Nancy Hatchett, the assistant director of the computer science department.

The complex will be built on the site of Taylor Hall and Chilling Station No. 2. The complex will house 60 faculty instead of the current 43, 1,400 undergraduates instead of the current 900, 350 graduate students up from 250 and 50 staff members.

The new complex, which is projected for completion in December 2012, will combine computer labs, research labs and house all classes for the department. Each floor will have a “research cluster,” or area to collaborate. The nature of computer science is to help other disciplines, so this collaborative space is long-needed, said computer science senior Roy Scott, who said he first became interested in computers when he started hacking his computer games to do “what I wanted them to do.”

“As software developers, we’re involved in the merging of different areas, like computer science and chemistry and physics,” Scott said. “Coders have to know what to look for.”
Scott said the department outgrew Taylor Hall on Speedway between 23rd and 24th streets. Still, a strong sense of community flourished.

“Our community has been centered in Taylor Hall, but it’s not big enough for all of our community,” Scott said Friday at a street fair for the groundbreaking Friday on the East Mall.
Plans for the complex by New York architecture firm Pelli Clarke Pelli call for windows on four sides of the building and an atrium to the sky.

“The way the architects designed the buildings allows a lot of space for research labs and collaborative areas, including abilities for interdisciplinary work,” Hatchett said. “The building will enable us to be together like a community on campus, with increased collaboration and synergies.”

Steel and glass towers are Pelli Clark Pelli’s style, as seen in New York’s World Financial Center.

“Typical buildings don’t have a lot of light,” said computer science senior Aria Grant. “It’s very open.”

Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects won a 2010 American Architecture Award for their design of their 3.8 million-square-foot hotel and casino in Las Vegas.