Zones of Change

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Centers for Disease Control, Infectious Disease Laboratory 17 Courtyard, Atlanta, GA

Materials & Dimensions:
Native plant community found on granite outcrops in Georgia, natural exfoliated granite boulders. Cut granite, gravel, exposed aggregate pigmented concrete, cast and lithochrome-surfaced concrete
425 feet long x 55-100 feet wide

The project was a federal GSA percent for Art in Architecture commission. The site is a courtyard that sits between the new Infectious Disease Lab 17 to the north and a multi-level parking lot to the south. It is a narrow, wedge-shaped site 425 feet long and varying in width from 55 feet to 100 feet, with a predominantly east-west axis tilted slightly to the SE. The topography of the overall site slopes down to the south and west.

The foundation of the design concept is site memory. The Zones of Change courtyard is an interpretation and representation of the distinctive granite outcrop landscape of the area surrounding Atlanta, and of its underlying physical geology. The goal was to provide the experience of the organic structure of the native landscape, of an open space determined by other than a geometric overview plan, a place informed by on-the-ground experience. Regular encounter with a landscape offering a contrast to the order of the workplace has the potential to relax and energize the mind. Spacious experience fosters spacious thinking.

The subsurface and surface geology are interpreted through hardscape elements. It is important that this depiction of the subsurface zones of instability was in the main area over which the scientists walk every day: They cross the depiction of fault zones and lines as they enter the research facility. It is a reminder of the uncertainty and risk in all research, but also of the potential for abrupt and pervasive change.

The concrete paths and walks are the color of Georgia soil, and have an exposed granite aggregate surface. The native plant community that grows on granite outcrops is re-established on the site, from trees and shrubs to grasses, perennials, groundcovers, and mosses, organized across the width of the site from laboratory to parking lot as they grow on the monadnocks from top to bottom. Paths and planting were done so that the long axial vistas implicit in the site were realized and visible from certain points in both the Lab and the parking lot, but also so that intimate refuges for pause, reflection, and relaxation would be provided for the building’s users once the trees and shrubs matured.

I intend that this project creates is a relationship between the Infectious Disease Lab and its open outdoor space like that of the Chinese scholar’s study to his garden. The study provided structured seclusion for focused intellectual effort; the adjacent garden provided both view and place to refresh the spirit by embodying the complexity and expanse of the natural world. Their interface reminded the scholar of the interdependence of abstraction and physical experience.

One Year Later