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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University April 19, 2004 | Vol. 33 No. 31
Public Health Celebrates 12-Year Buildout

The new Washington Street facade

Rededication this week marks completion of final pieces of campus

By Greg Rienzi
The Gazette

All the "Lego pieces" are now in place. The Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health officially unveils this week the 12-year construction and renovation project that has nearly doubled the size of the facility and extensively modernized the look and feel of the 78-year-old campus.

Since 1992, six new teaching and research facilities have been built, and the once-drab and purely functional interior now shines with steel, glass and an abundance of natural light. Students — who previously had no place to go apart from the class or lab — also now have comfortable spaces they can call their own.

The school will mark the completion of the major capital project with a rededication ceremony and celebration on April 23.

The completion of the two new teaching and research facilities, known as TR5 and TR6, marks the final phase of expansion of the one-block campus, which has now reached its maximum buildout.

The School of Public Health campus — bounded by Monument, Washington, McElderry and North Wolfe streets — opened in 1926 and originally consisted of one main building with a parking lot in the rear. Its first main addition was the Hume Wing, opened in 1964, followed shortly by the Stebbings Wing and the East Wing Auditorium. In 1994, the school, aided by a $2.6 million state grant and private gifts, hired the award-winning Baltimore architectural firm Ziger/Snead to design the buildout of the campus. The result was TRs 1 through 4, which were completed in 2002.

Dean Alfred Sommer in the gallery

The two latest TR facilities, which cost $55 million, add approximately 200,000 square feet of floor space, 260 offices and eight floors of laboratory area. Many of the new laboratories will be dedicated to the Malaria Research Institute, which is working on vaccines and other methods to eradicate malaria.

Alfred Sommer, who became the school's dean in 1992, said that from day one of his tenure, he realized that the densely populated campus had an inadequate amount of research space and common area, and that much of the existing space was unacceptably outdated.

"To say the least, there was a very pressing need for modern space here," said Sommer, who cited the examples of a boardroom that had a cracked Formica table and cork walls with chunks ripped out, and lab spaces that the school's original faculty would have recognized. "In fact, the size of the campus remains inadequate even now, when every bit of space is spoken for. That should tell you just how strapped for room we were.

The gallery with a view of the mezzanine

"And for our 1,600 students, there was no place for them to relax and for their spirits to soar," Sommer said. "In essence, there was nowhere for our students to be traditional students."

Faced with no available green space and limited expansion room, the renovation design called for creating a campus inside the building, with new commons spaces, lounges and hallways that had the feel of sidewalk cafes, said Michael Linehan, director of facilities management for the School of Public Health.

Project architects Ziger/Snead also designed SPSBE's Downtown Center, the Maryland Institute College of Art's bold, glass-sheathed Brown Center and the three-story addition and new grand entrance to the Maryland Historical Society, among other notable projects.

For the School of Public Health, Ziger/Snead transformed the Monument Street entrance, which is now the front door to the campus. The result is a sleek two-story gallery that serves as the circulation spine for the entire facility, Linehan said.

The cafeteria, on the mezzanine level

"It's the Champs Elysees of the building," he said. "We wanted a grand new space that was in proportion to the expanded facility."

The gallery space features a dramatic skylight, a new cafeteria, a frosted glass-encased conference room and a 10-foot-tall wall-mounted video monitor that cycles through Public Health-related images. Scattered throughout the space are stylish steel chairs on the first floor and ergonomic benches and chairs upstairs on the mezzanine level, making it feel like one large, extended lounge.

The use of steel, blonde wood panels and glass echoes throughout the campus, seamlessly tying in old and new. The school's 1992 master plan broke the renovation project into five separate pieces, Linehan said, which would come together like Legos.

"Part of our scheme was to add on to the building while simultaneously renovating the older portions," Linehan said. "We worked out common furnishings, colors and other interior notes so that the older building wouldn't become second class but rather feature the same motif and elements."

The new buildings feature a coffee shop, fitness facility and a four-story, sky-lit reading court that will be furnished with chairs, couches and tables. The fitness facility, located on the TR6's ninth floor, contains treadmills, weight machines, stationary bikes and other exercise equipment, some of which have flat-screen televisions mounted on them.

The Monument Street entrance, the front door to the campus

Other campus additions include a state-of-the-art 350-seat auditorium, Feinstone Hall (a large multipurpose room), several large meeting spaces and dozens of new laboratories and classrooms. The building also features wireless service so that students can access the Internet from anywhere in the building.

Friday's rededication event, which will be held at 4:30 p.m. in the new auditorium, is open to School of Public Health faculty, staff and students and selected guests, a list that includes William H. Gates Sr., co-chairman of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; U.S. Senators Barbara Mikulski and Paul Sarbanes of Maryland; Thomas Frieden, the health commissioner of New York City; and Michael R. Bloomberg, mayor of New York. Mayor Bloomberg will unveil a plaque dedicating the new facility and the school, which is named in his honor. The largest donor in the university's history, Bloomberg designated $35 million in endowment for the unrestricted use of the School of Public Health.

The lounge next to the cafeteria

Sommer, who will be joined at the event by President William R. Brody and Chip Mason, chair of the university's board of trustees, said that the rededication event is not just a celebration of the physical space but of the school's continuing mission to protect health and save lives — millions at a time. Specifically, the event will serve to launch the Malaria Research Institute and honor the work being done at the Bill and Melinda Gates Institute for Population and Reproductive Health, which opened at the school in 1999.

Commenting on the renovations that have "transformed the campus," Sommer said he delights in strolling through the new Monument Street gallery and passing large numbers of students as they relax, study or just settle in for a snack.

"We wanted to create an internal energy to this place, and we've done that. People's spirits here have gone through the ceiling," he said. "To be honest, it was depressing here in various parts before. What kept this place alive was the dedication and vitality of its people, who all want nothing less than to save the world. You can only feel as good as the facilities around you, and now we have a campus worthy of its human contents."

Feinstone Hall multipurpose room

The auditorium, with 350 tiered seats and a large projection screen

Exercise machines with built-in TV screens and window views of the city skyline


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