Where Science and Design Come Together

Oct. 1, 2007
New Construction Citation of Excellence: Air Liquide Research and Technology Center, Newark, DE

In support of its mission to supply ground-breaking technologies, products, and services for its industrial and medical gases business, Air Liquide encourages employee development, protects the environment, and delivers long-term performance to its shareholders. Wanting to provide a world-class facility to support imagination in a collaborative setting, Air Liquide decided to build a 23,000-square-foot addition at the front of its existing 60,000-square-foot building.

The owners wanted the new building to suggest the values of creativity, innovation, movement, collaboration, connection to nature, wise use of natural resources, and uniqueness. To achieve these objectives, the front entrance of the building now features a soaring canopy that angles toward the parking area, leaving no doubt about where to enter the building (and letting passersby know that there are significant activities occurring inside). Full-height glass walls in the lobby bring the outside environment indoors; a curved glass wall opens onto a view of the landscaped front yard of the building. Advantageously placed skylights and interior windows bring natural light deep into the building.

For purposes of cost control as well as sustainability, the existing building structure (including foundations, steel superstructure, and deck) were reused. Non-conventional methods for rigging and erecting the mezzanine steel were used so that the new mezzanine could be structurally independent of the existing steel framing (due to current seismic code restrictions, this was required).

Two organizing elements make up Air Liquide's Newark, DE, location: the main street and the lab corridor. "Main street" is the connecting corridor that runs the length of the building - from the front lobby, past the conference rooms and café, and along the office areas - until it ends in the knowledge center and lunch room. Its purpose is to encourage communication and teamwork among researchers and guests. The lab corridor, located between the offices and labs, features large windows that allow visitors to view lab activities without actually entering the lab space.

Air Liquide's building borrows a concept from the organization's French Research Center for this new U.S. space: a town center. Located just off of the main lobby and corridor, the town center is intended to be a focal point for building occupants, offering several formal and informal places to gather (a large training room, conference rooms, huddle rooms, and a café).

With safety as a primary concern, the labs are situated with multiple exits and to maximize views between labs so that researchers can look out for one other when they're in different rooms.

The Air Liquide Research and Technology Center now boasts the latest laboratory technology and infrastructure so that its researchers have the greatest chance for victory when developing innovative technologies, products, and services. Estimating that the research staff will double within the next 2 years, this new building was designed to attract the best and brightest professionals. 

Judges' Comments

"This is a very exciting and dynamic building. The massing of the expansion provides a welcome addition to the ubiquitous rectangular block. The way the addition presents itself to the public is very exciting. The scope was followed very well and was mindfully thought out in the build-out with the current surroundings."

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