The Johns Hopkins Gazette: October 4, 1999
October 4, 1999
VOL. 29, NO. 6


Clark Hall Construction to Begin

Biomedical engineering building on Homewood campus to open in 2001

By Phil Sneiderman

Johns Hopkins Gazette Online Edition

A groundbreaking ceremony will take place Wednesday, Oct. 6, to celebrate the upcoming construction of Clark Hall, a state-of-the-art research and teaching facility for biomedical engineering on the Homewood campus.

The three-story building, designed by Robert A.M. Stern Architects of New York, will house modern laboratories and instructional facilities for faculty members associated with the university's new Whitaker Institute of Biomedical Engineering. Located near Garland Hall, Clark Hall will also become the cornerstone of a new quadrangle at the southern end of the Homewood campus.

The groundbreaking ceremony will begin at 4:30 p.m. under a tent on the field in front of Garland Hall. Speakers will include university president William R. Brody; Graham Wyatt of Robert A.M. Stern Architects; G. Burtt Holmes, chairman of the Whitaker Foundation; Murray Sachs, director of the Department of Biomedical Engineering and of the Whitaker Institute of Biomedical Engineering; and A. James Clark, chairman and chief executive officer of Clark Enterprises, for whom the building is named.

Clad in special bricks reminiscent of those in Homewood's earliest buildings, the 55,000-square-foot Clark Hall will be the cornerstone of a future quadrangle at the southern end of campus. Construction of the biomedical engineering building will begin in late winter.

Clark (pictured at right), a university trustee, heads the Clark Construction Group, the nation's largest privately held general building firm. Clark provided a $10 million gift toward construction of the building. The project is also being supported by a $17 million Leadership Award from the Rosslyn, Va.-based Whitaker Foundation and a $3 million capital grant from the state of Maryland.

Robert A.M. Stern, dean of the School of Architecture at Yale and one of the country's preeminent architects, is known for the contextual sensitivity of his work, which ranges from Shingle-style residences on Long Island to an animation building at Disney's corporate headquarters in Burbank, Calif.

Boasting a classical design evocative of the Homewood campus's earliest buildings, Clark Hall will provide 55,000 gross square feet of space, making it slightly larger than Latrobe Hall, one of the key buildings on the nearby engineering quadrangle. Wyatt, the Stern partner who oversaw the design work, said he had visited the Homewood campus a number of times and was familiar with its Georgian-style buildings. "Even before we were selected for the Clark Hall project, I had a pretty good sense of what would be architecturally appropriate for this campus," he said. "We looked very hard at the other buildings on campus to understand the proportions, forms and use of materials."

Clark Hall will be constructed of special red bricks, made with a certain type of clay and processed so that they appear to be handmade. "We wanted people to look at this building and say that it looks like a building that was meant to be on the Johns Hopkins campus," Wyatt said. He added that his firm also had to keep in mind that Clark Hall will be a critical first element in a new quadrangle of buildings envisioned near Garland Hall.

Detailed construction drawings for Clark Hall will be completed over the next few months. Construction is expected to begin in late winter, with completion anticipated by the summer of 2001. The project, including design fees, laboratory equipment, computers and other furnishings, is expected to cost $18.5 million. The architect of record is HLM Design of Bethesda. HLM, which will prepare the detailed construction drawings, teamed with Robert A.M. Stern Architects, which shaped the overall exterior and interior appearance. SST Planners, based in Arlington, Va., assisted in laying out lab spaces, and RMF Engineering, of Baltimore, is designing the building's mechanical and electrical systems.

When Clark Hall is completed, it will house the Homewood facilities of the Whitaker Institute, including research laboratories for faculty members and visiting scientists from industry, a microfabrication laboratory for teaching and research, teaching labs for core biomedical engineering courses and interactive multimedia computer classrooms for biomedical engineering instruction. It will be equipped for global telecommunications.

Currently, most biomedical engineering research is based in the School of Medicine on the JHMI campus. The construction of Clark Hall will allow the department to develop a strong presence at the Homewood campus as well. The new Whitaker Institute of Biomedical Engineering will encompass activities on both campuses and faculty both within and outside the Department of Biomedical Engineering.

The Johns Hopkins biomedical engineering program is one of the most highly regarded in the world. Biomedical engineering, as a discipline, has been part of Hopkins education since 1946. It became a department in the School of Medicine in 1970, and the Whiting School of Engineering assumed the undergraduate program in 1979. The department has 17 primary faculty members, including internationally recognized lead researchers in biomedical imaging, fundamental and applied studies of cardiac function, the molecular biology of nerve cells and the development of innovative systems for delivering gene therapy. About 100 graduate students and more than 500 undergraduates are enrolled. It is the university's largest undergraduate program.

The construction of Clark Hall and the establishment of the Whitaker Institute will allow the biomedical engineering program to expand its research in three emerging high-tech areas: creating computer models of human cells and organs for testing of drugs, devices and treatment regimens; improving medical imaging systems to allow physicians to gather important information about internal organs without invading the body; and fostering advances in cell and tissue engineering, including new drug delivery systems and engineered tissues and organs.

The Whitaker grant will support the hiring of 10 new faculty members affiliated with the institute, beyond two new faculty positions approved previously by the university. Many of the new faculty members will be based at Clark Hall.