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Sense of Place

A Positive Verdict

Lanier Professional Development Center at Texas Tech School of Law
University Business, Sep 2008

A 34,560-SQUARE-FOOT ADDITION to the School of Law building at Texas Tech University in Lubbock brings the law school community?and community at large?closer together.

--FUNCTION: A high-tech courtroom and large auditorium/classroom are the major components of the Mark and Becky Lanier Professional Development Center.

--CHALLENGE: Although the law school already had an enviable reputation?with an excellent bar exam pass rate, several high-profile alumni, and a designation as one of America’s top law schools for “best value”?its circa-1969 building needed some grand spaces. The existing courtroom had just 80 seats and was made of concrete (which is technology upgrade-prohibitive), and no single room could hold an entire law school class at once, says Frank Ramos, assistant dean of administration and finance at the law school. “We’d have to walk across the campus to the biology or other large lecture hall to talk to all of them.” In addition, the school had outgrown its largest classroom, which seated 120, and hoped to provide more continuing education opportunities.

--SOLUTION: The addition has made the law school bigger and better. The 130-seat Donald Hunt courtroom includes two large projection screens so audiences on the floor and in the balcony can watch proceedings. Other high-tech amenities are a document camera, laptop connections, and video players for electronic introduction of evidence. Integrated technology includes videoconferencing capability and digital recording of court proceedings. The Supreme Court of Texas?which had last been at the school a decade ago?heard two cases in the courtroom to inaugurate the addition’s completion. But special guests aside, lead designer David Rose from architect SHW Group explains what makes the courtroom shine is this: “It’s a real-world model equipped with current technology that will place Texas Tech at the forefront of law schools and allow students to hone their skills in the most realistic environment.”

Connected by a new convocation/foyer space, the addition’s other main feature is a 300-seat auditorium-classroom with a projection screen capable of hosting larger continuing education events. That’s something alumni could appreciate, as they got tours of the in-progress addition?and later opened their wallets to donate a total of more than $1 million for upkeep of the building. As for prospective students, Ramos says, “It’s been a wonderful recruitment tool.”

--COST: $13.6 million (including $6 million from law school grad Mark Lanier ’84 and his wife Becky, a Texas Tech grad)

--COMPLETED: April 2008

--PROJECT TEAM: SHW Group, Dallas, architect; Vaughn Construction, Houston, general contractor.

--CONSTRUCTION OF A $44 MILLION APARTMENT COMPLEX AT SOUTHERN UNIVERSITY AT NEW ORLEANS. Since post-Katrina floodwaters savaged its campus in 2005, the university has operated in trailers located in front of the lakeside tract to be developed, which is twice as large?and on higher ground?than SUNO’s original campus. With 227,000 square feet for students and faculty, the housing will be the first residences for the state-run institution. Expected completion for phase one (approximately 400 beds) is fall of 2009 and phase two (another 300 beds) is a year later.

--RENOVATION OF THE KIRNER-JOHNSON BUILDING AT HAMILTON COLLEGE (N.Y.). Referred to as “the equivalent of an overworked multi-tasker on the verge of a nervous breakdown,” the circa 1968 building houses two academic departments, the centers for writing and oral communication, a public affairs center, the dean of student’s office, and the registrar’s office. A just-completed addition brought new classrooms, a place for the social sciences to reside together, and gathering spaces. The renovation of existing space, on which the addition was built, has an expected completion of June 2009, for a total project cost of $23 million.

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