Emory Report
October 15, 2007
Volume 60, Number 7

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October 15, 2007
A dream space for studying the mind


We call it the dream project. We have a great team,” Carole Meyers said of the more than 100 people who have been working on plans for a new psychology building.

The vision began forming eight years ago under the leadership of Rosemary Magee, who was then senior associate dean of Emory College. Meyers started shepherding the plans in 2005, when she became senior director of IT and facilities — one of the college’s key “space people.”

“It takes a lot of people and a lot of time to pull off a building,” Meyers said. “It’s been a truly collaborative experience. Everybody came to the table with their best ideas.”

Faculty from the department of psychology, key administrators and architects from the HOK architecture firm visited other top universities with cutting-edge psychology facilities to glean ideas.

“Our goal was to create not just a state-of-the-art research facility, but a hands-on learning environment where the educational experience extends beyond the classrooms,” Meyers said.

The $49.8 million building will be constructed with Leadership in Environmental Energy and Design (LEED) principles, rise five stories and extend in a boomerang shape along Eagle Row. Its two wings will embrace green space and walkways connected with the chemistry department in Atwood, forming a “science commons.”

Upon completion in 2009, the 119,000-square-foot structure will have more than double the space of the existing psychology building, and bring together offices for the department’s faculty and graduate students, laboratories, classrooms and clinical work that are now spread over six locations. (The only psychology labs not housed in the new building will be those involving animals.)

The high-tech classrooms will feature comfortable, movable furniture and a studio-like feel, where students can interact in small groups. The building’s public areas will be filled with “touchdown” spaces, modeled after those in the Cox Hall computing center, where scholars can gather around 60-inch screens for ad-hoc discussions.

“When you leave a classroom, you can walk over to one of these collaborative areas and have the same functionality,” Meyers said. “Two or three of you can hook up a laptop to a screen and look at a brain scan, a Web site or a PowerPoint presentation. Our idea is to have a building that feels alive everywhere and encourages people to linger and have conversations.”

Among the building’s features requested by the faculty are three open staircases. “The faculty really wanted them,” Meyers said, “both for health reasons [so they’d be more likely to take the stairs] and so they would have opportunities to run into each other more. It’s called ‘vertical circulation.’”

A functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) suite will be customized for high-tech research on the brain, along with teaching. An fMRI simulator, to train students in the use of the technology, and to acclimate subjects to the device, will be one of the unique features of the suite.

The Psychological Center (which serves patients in the Atlanta community and is a training facility for advance doctoral candidates in clinical psychology) and the Child Studies Center (which conducts research in early cognition and development) will have warm, child-friendly environments within the new building.
Natural light will fill lab spaces and even the 115-seat auditorium, which will have skylights, etched glass transoms and gently sloped aisles — instead of steps — to give it a more intimate feel.

“Other universities will be coming to Emory to learn how to create a great facility for their psychology departments,” predicted Patricia Bauer, Asa Griggs Candler Professor of Psychology and senior associate dean for research.