Published on November 21st, 2016 | by UC&D Magazine


Start Me Up

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Beautiful new Lassonde Studios at the University of Utah gives a home to entrepreneur ethos.

If nothing else, the recently completed Lassonde Studios at the University of Utah is built to make that trip from the shower to the workshop as short and productive as possible. The new $45 million, 160,000-sq.ft. glimmering copper and glass edifice at the heart of the Salt Lake City campus is designed to bring together students from across disciplines who all share a passion for entrepreneurship in a truly unique live/work space according to Troy D’Ambrosio, executive director of the Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute.

“We want to shorten the distance between ideas and resources and shorten the time it takes to kill a bad idea or encourage a good one,” said D’Ambrosio. “When you think about it, what better place is there to launch a business or develop an idea than on a college campus?”

The Lassonde Studios is the latest outgrowth of the Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute launched in 2002 with a $50,000 grant from U of U Alumnus Pierre Lassonde who made a successful career in the mining industry and an interest in encouraging entrepreneurship.

Since its beginning, the Lassonde Institute has fostered the growth of companies started by U of U faculty members and progressed to sponsoring student business plan competitions and resulting ventures. D’Ambrosio says the new Lassonde Studio is the result of conversations with students about how to better encourage young entrepreneurs.

D’Ambrosio said in 2012 the Institute has seen a surge of student interest in entrepreneurship and felt there was more they could do to encourage and develop that interest. After canvassing former and current students he said the idea of bringing together like-minded individuals in a common space with flexible work areas and access to tools emerged.

“At the time I wasn’t sure we needed a physical space,” said D’Ambrosio. He said the program and university officials turned to a team at the planning and design firm Arup Foresight who began developing ideas to accomplish the institute’s goals. When the idea for a building, emerged, the group engaged designers at Salt Lake City- based EDA Architects and Cannon Design of Los Angeles.

EDA Architect Nick Lorenzo said he knew the design team was taking on a project unlike typical buildings in higher education settings or commercial uses.

“When we went to the presentation we didn’t have much to show as far as examples. This building and what it is for are pretty unique,” said Lorenzo. “This is a new type of building that combines living and ‘making’ space. There is not anything like it on campus or really anywhere across the country.”

The resulting structure is four stories with a 20,000-sq. ft. space on the main floor open to all students that includes open workspaces, small offices, 24-hour café and a workshop outfitted with tools, 3-D printers and laser cutters.

The upper 400-bed residential floors include a variety of living quarters ranging from standard single and double dorm- style rooms, to open, urban-style lofts and 70-sq ft. modular pods. The living spaces branch off from a central common work and kitchen area. Floors are dedicated to specific types of projects and include video games and animation, sustainability and “green” projects and outdoor recreation. Lorenzo said EDA’s interior design studio created a distinctive look for the live/work spaces with branding elements for each floor and for the building itself.

Lorenzo noted the “U” shape of the building allows for the maximum amount of natural light throughout the building as well as creating a “canyon” feature that serves as a central outdoor gathering space and another area where students from different disciplines can interact and share ideas.

“We wanted to reference the geography of the area with that canyon feature. It also led us to the use of the copper cladding on the building,” said Lorenzo. “Mr. Lassonde (who contributed $25 million to initiate the project) was a mining entrepreneur and Utah is known for copper mining.”

In order to realize the open floor plans designers wanted as well as flexibility and durability, builders opted for a poured-in- place concrete structure.

“The concrete slabs with minimal reinforcing will allow for reconfiguration of the space in the future and it is also durable to handle whatever the students are working on,” said Lorenzo.

Troy North was construction manager for Salt Lake City-based Gramoll construction who delivered the project on a CM/GC contract. While groundbreaking on the project was held in the fall of 2014, North said his team became involved earlier during design phase and performed constructability assessments and value engineering keeping the project on budget.

Lorenzo said the project was broken into two bid packages so basic structural work could begin while final design was still being completed.

North said crews began pouring the foundation shortly after groundbreaking. He estimated a total of 14,000-cu. yds. of concrete was poured for the structure and at one point crews were pouring 250 to 300 yards of concrete an hour. North said to create the structure’s curves and angles, sub-contractor Pikus Concrete used the flexible Peri concrete form system.

Lorenzo and North said the copper cladding was one of the main construction challenges.

“It took us a while to find copper that would work and fit in the budget,” said North. “Because of the curves and angles of the building all the copper panels had to be hand-shaped and cut on site. None of them came that way from the shop.”

Lorenzo said the panels were left uncoated and will patina over time adding to the unique look of the building.

“The university said they wanted an iconic building that will be recognizable and represent the campus to people outside the community and outside the state and I think we’ve achieved that as well as got them a high quality building done on the timeline theywanted,”said Lorenzo.

Project Team

Owner: State of Utah DFCM; University of Utah
Architects: EDA Architects; Cannon Design; Yazdani Studio.
GC: Gramoll Construction
Civil: NV5
Structural: Dunn Associates
Mechanical: Colvin Engineering
Electrical: Envision Engineering

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