Making A Statement
MSC Continues Campus Expansion With High-Tech
Professional Sciences Building
By Sheron Smith
From an architectural standpoint, Macon State College's new 75,000-square-foot
Student Life Center is a tough act to follow.
But college officials expect to break ground this fall on a state-of-the-art
academic facility - designed by the world-renowned John Portman
& Associates architectural firm - that just might steal the
The building - yet to be formally named but called the Nursing,
Health Sciences and Outreach Complex for now - will reflect innovative,
new century ways of serving Central Georgia's higher education needs,
according to President David A. Bell.
"Part of our mission at Macon State College is to lead the
way in this new era of higher education, an era that's very much
influenced by information technology," Bell said. "Knowledge
is being created and disseminated faster than ever before, and a
commitment to lifelong learning is essential for people who want
to stay competitive. We've had the opportunity to design the next
evolution of Macon State with that in mind. We want to present the
college as a place that has an exciting, vibrant learning environment,
and we believe this building helps us make that statement.""
The Georgia General Assembly funded the 80,000-square-foot, three-story
complex this year after it reached the top spot on the University
System's Board of Regents' priority list for capital projects. Bell
expects the $16.2 million facility to open in fall 2003.
The center is actually Phase I of what over the next six to seven
years will evolve into a 175,000-square-foot academic and executive
conference complex built along Macon State's campus lake.
Phase I, featuring state-of-the-art laboratories for various academic
disciplines, will house Macon State's nursing, health information
management, health services administration, respiratory therapy, natural
sciences and math programs. In addition, Phase I will provide space
for Macon State to host a greater number and variety of graduate degree
programs administered by other University System institutions.
A drawing of the Nursing, Health Sciences
& Outreach Complex, designed by John Portman & Associates
A bit further down the road, Phase II, now No. 7 on the Regents'
priority list with a $20 million price tag, will house Macon State's
divisions of Business Administration and Information Technology.
Phase II will also serve as a high-tech conference facility for
Macon State's business partnerships and visiting education groups.
To get ideas for the technological design of Phase II, Dr. Mike
Staman, faculty adviser to Bell for technology, is researching how
schools such as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
built high-tech conference centers.
John Portman & Associates, based in Atlanta, is a leading architectural
firm recognized worldwide for its distinctive work in mixed-use
urban complexes, hospitality and collegiate campus environments.
In one recent high-profile international project, Portman designed
the Indian School of Business, a 250-acre campus near Hyderabad,
one of India's emerging high-tech centers.
Closer to home, Portman designed many of the buildings that make
up Atlanta's skyline, including SunTrust Plaza, the Westin Peachtree
Plaza and the Atlanta Apparel Mart.
Portman's exterior architectural drawings of Macon State's professional
sciences center, Phase I, show an interesting horizontal design
for the facility to be built along the south side of the lake. The
building will run on an east and west axis, with two wings of offices
and academic spaces divided by a visually open atrium.
The glass-topped atrium is one of the defining features of the
building. Another is the curved or - to use the architectural term
- "barrel-vaulted" roof.
"That curvature gives the building a very different look,"
said Walter Miller, vice president at Portman and a specialist in
master planning and building design for colleges and universities.
"It's a very progressive building - simple, but bold."
The center's interior features are also state-of-the-art. Labs
for the professional and natural sciences include all the latest
technology, such as computer simulation and modeling capabilities.
The center will be completely wired for information technology and
distance learning, allowing, for example, nursing students to watch
a surgical procedure as it takes place at a medical facility anywhere
in the country. One clinical lab for the nursing degree program
will be set up as a modern 10-bed "patient" unit where
students can practice. Students will have computer access virtually
everywhere in the building, including the lounge areas.
"Students are going to enjoy the design of this building,"
said Bob Woodhurst of The Woodhurst Partnership in Augusta, the
firm providing overall project management. "It will have a
nice, multilevel lobby somewhat like the Student Life Center with
what we call a 'window wall' looking toward the lake. It's going
to be much lighter and airier than the image people generally have
of lab facilities."
As part of Macon State College's ongoing Botanical Gardens project,
a lakeside walking path lined with a variety of plants and trees
will link the Student Life Center with the new complex.
"We're creating a modern academic village around the lake,"
Bell said, "and it's going to be beautiful."