Pratt School Breaks Ground for New Engineering Center

April 28, 2002

With a quick shovel of earth, key donors and the dean of the Pratt School of Engineering and President Nannerl O. Keohane broke ground Saturday for the start of construction of the $97 million Center for Interdisciplinary Engineering, Medicine and Applied Sciences.

The ceremonial groundbreaking across Science Drive from Hudson Hall was the highlight of a weekend of festivities at the Pratt School honoring the school's donors and alumni.

The design of the 322,000-square-foot, two-building center was approved by the Board of Trustees in February and the university will seek the final construction go-ahead from the board May 10. Preliminary site preparation activities already are underway and Science Drive will close May 13, following commencement. A new bus turnaround will be built in front of the Physics Building.

"Getting to this point has been a monumental task," Pratt Dean Kristina Johnson told more than 100 donors, alumni, faculty, students and staff gathered in front of the groundbreaking site. "It's been a fabulous team effort with great university commitment, dedicated faculty, terrific students and staff, but without our alumni and donors that we're here to celebrate, it would not have happened."

Keohane said the building is a direct result of the university's new strategic plan, "Building on Excellence," that outlines a series of bold initiatives in science and engineering and interdisciplinary research and teaching.

"The plan said if we're going to do that, we need new facilities -- new buildings, new labs, new space, new classrooms -- state-of-the-art facilities, not cheap, not easy ... great facilities," Keohane said. "This Center for Interdisciplinary Engineering, Medicine and Applied Sciences that we break ground for so joyfully today is a particularly important result of that plan."

"These buildings will be beautiful in the best Duke tradition," the president said. "They also will be functional in ways that we could only have imagined a few decades ago."

Keohane said the construction will be untidy, but "bear with the untidiness, because in the end a great, beautiful, useful structure will rise on this site -- a new home for technical challenge and creativity and intellectual adventure. I can promise that we will all love the fruits of this untidiness some day."

The center is scheduled to be completed in the fall of 2004.

The buildings will house the research and teaching activity of the school's three strategic initiatives -- Bioengineering, the Fitzpatrick Center for Photonics and Communications, and Materials Science and Materials Engineering. In addition, the complex will house a new emerging initiative in remote sensing and instrumentation.

The School of Medicine will occupy 41,000 square feet of the east building for the new Institute for Genomic Science and Policy and its partnership activities with the Department of Biomedical Engineering. A planned 25,000-square-foot clean room, fabrication and testing facility may be shared by Trinity College of Arts and Sciences. The remaining 256,000 square feet are allocated to Pratt activities.

Once the center is occupied, Hudson Hall will be renovated. In addition to teaching and research labs, classrooms and offices, the renovated building will house an administrative suite including the dean's office and administrative offices of the school's four departments.