North Georgia Technical College Industrial Technology Center

Because this newest facility at North Georgia Technical College caps the academic quad, its design was paramount. The 46,327 s.f. Industrial Technology Center (ITC) not only provides completion for the educational setting, it offers a necessary and aesthetic public face for NGTC.

The ambitious program called for two large educational programs (CNC Machine Tool and HVAC Technology) with accompanying computer labs, classrooms and ancillary spaces; an Economic Development center with an event space with capacity up to 240, with kitchen and ancillary space; an Economic Development suite including eight private offices, break room, and conference room; and classrooms, labs and a testing center for community education.

Set in a prominent part of campus and with different user groups, the ITC necessitated three front entrances, eliminating the sense of a rear or lesser side. The northeast corner (with both north and east entries) is the public face for campus visitors, while the west entry fronts the campus quad and is the educational access for students, teachers, and other school personnel.

Each of the two main program aspects – education and community interface – can be seen from the exterior as two unique “blocks” with two different, but complimentary material palettes. A clerestory atop the larger block of the building is meant as a beacon to the community, as it is visible throughout campus and from the highway that passes NGTC. The smaller educational block has a more personal scale, allowing it to interface with and complement the surrounding buildings.

In the interior is an additional “block,” further separating or delineating the educational programs. These three components are physically separated by a large circulation space, but are visibly connected through its openness, as well as through the abundance of glass used. The circulation commons also forms the main axes of the building, between the three entries, simplifying wayfinding.

This open common space provides a sort of “single-point guided tour” for visitors. Through any entry, visitors can see “through” the building: Observing the two training programs at work; social activity on the 1st floor Commons; or down to the campus quad beyond ―and proceed to the Event Center for a program, professional certification testing, or other event.

The technical programs taught within the ITC (CNC Machine Tool and HVAC Technology) were inspirations for the overall design, as well as for selection of finishes.
o The roof of the public building block is meant to mimic a sheet of metal being bent and manipulated in the machine tool lab – the “metal sheet” forms the roof and is “bent” to continue down the exterior wall, also being manipulated and bent at windows, etc.
o Much of the building features exposed ceilings, highlighting many of the systems taught in the HVAC technology program. The large common space also presents nozzle diffusers as a design feature, further enhancing the space with features of HVAC technology.
o Finish selections center around “technical” choices – metal accents (acoustical paneling, cast lettering), exposed concrete floors and ceilings, and neutral colors.

Design Challenge

The main design challenge for the Industrial Technology Center was to physically separate the various program elements and users (students, faculty, and the public), while prioritizing visual connectivity between them. One of the greatest desires of the College was to publicize its programs for the visiting community by making these hands-on labs viewable while in session. Through a thoughtful solution, larger program blocks were created – education, faculty, and community – and all are physically split from one another by large-volume public spaces and an open stair. The large common space separates these areas and users, but also creates an attractive space for co-mingling and connection, while the openness and transparent glass at each academic program fulfills NGTC’s vision for classes that can be viewed by the wider community. The requirement for user separation also dictated the need for multiple entrances and no real “rear” of the building. Students access the educational portion of the building from the campus quad, by entering on the first floor on the west side, while members of the community access the public section by either of two 2nd floor entrances on the north and east side of the building. These entries demarcate the ends of the axes of the large interior common space, effectively separating as well as connecting them. On a larger scale, the Industrial Technology Center physically separates the academic quad from the exterior parking lots and entries that are most accessible to the community. The transparent common space sits on the axis between the two, visually connecting the upper entry down through to the academic quad of the campus. This also artfully reconciles and makes programmatic use of the grade change on the site. The result is a useful yet dramatic aesthetic environment that is consistent with the theme of technology.

Physical Context

The NGTC campus master plan prioritizes green space. The Industrial Technology Center caps and completes the principal green space, while creating a main axis with the administration building on the opposite end. Furthermore, the material palette and form of the educational block of the building complement the surrounding educational buildings on the quad, remaining consistent with a campus-wide unified palette. The community block, on the other hand, endeavors to be unique and noteworthy, introducing a brand-new form and palette to the campus’ “catalog”. The building is sited straddling a 12’ grade change in an effort to balance cut and fill, and in addition to provide on-grade vehicular access to both educational programs. Spaces and façades were consistently considered and designed to highlight the best views and sunlight of the picturesque north Georgia countryside. Most student and faculty spaces face the west, allowing for a visual connection with the rest of campus, as well as optimum westerly light. And as the prominent public space, the Economic Development Center was designed for the best view identified, with expansive north and east facing storefront systems.