The Phil and Penny Knight Campus for Accelerating Scientific Impact opens at The University of Oregon
Designed by Ennead and Bora, the Knight Campus establishes a catalytic new environment to inspire world-class scientific innovation within a state-of-the-art facility
December 2, 2020 ‒ The design team of New York-based Ennead Architects and Portland-based Bora Architecture & Interiors celebrate the highly anticipated opening of the Phil and Penny Knight Campus for Accelerating Scientific Impact at the University of Oregon. The Knight Campus’ transformative, human-centered design will support researchers as they advance the initiative’s mission to shorten the timeline between discovery, development, and deployment of innovations that will have positive societal impact. Made possible by a $500 million lead gift from Penny and Phil Knight, the 160,000 square-foot campus unites form with function to bring ideas to market faster, bringing together engineering, applied sciences, business innovation and culture within a light-filled, highly flexible space designed to break down boundaries and adapt to new directions in research. Images of the Knight Campus here.
The design of the Knight Campus is the result of a collaboration between Ennead and Bora, both of which are award-winning firms known for their expertise in academic and research buildings. Design Partner Todd Schliemann and Management Partner Don Weinreich led the Ennead team and John O’Toole and Tom Bauer led the Bora team. The two firms worked closely with University of Oregon faculty and staff to create a facility that would represent the ambitions of the initiative, translating its progressive mission into architecture and providing the Knight Campus with an iconic, future-forward identity.
“So much of research is about improving the human condition,” said Todd Schliemann, Design Partner at Ennead Architects. “Our goal for the Knight Campus was the creation of a humanistic research machine – one that supports practical needs and aesthetic aspirations, but more importantly, one that inspires the people who work in it, those that move through it and those that simply pass by, and that contributes to the university community and the greater context.”
“Our team was inspired by UO’s ambitious goal to build a facility that would elevate scientific research and speed up the impact cycle of discovery,” said John O’Toole, Managing Principal of Bora Architects & Interiors. The design emphasizes connections–across disciplines, with students, and with industry partners. The building’s transparency supports this vision, with clear views into the research being done, outdoor gathering spaces, and glass-enclosed bridges connecting across the building and to the main campus.”
The Knight Campus encourages collaboration among researchers from a wide variety of scientific fields and is designed to create greater interactions between them in an environment that prioritizes wellness and optimizes human performance. The building’s massing reinforces the notion of community. The Knight Campus features two L-shaped towers that face each other to cradle an elevated terrace and courtyard, joined above by a transparent connector. A translucent canopy over the terrace offers protection during the rain, while providing a light-filled outdoor environment to relax, socialize, and connect with nature. The northern sides of the two towers, which fold into the courtyard and terrace, embrace simplicity in a glass curtain wall system that reveals the building structure.
Open, variably scaled workspaces distributed throughout the facility allow research groups to leave their labs and take advantage of different communal environments. The two upper floors of the facility contain interdisciplinary research neighborhoods which bring experimental and computational research together. A 21-foot floor-to-floor height allows for suspended mezzanine structures of mass timber containing offices for faculty, creating a new level of connectivity to their laboratories and graduate students.
The building was programmed to be highly adaptive, allowing research groups to easily shift focus depending on where discoveries lead. In the labs, write-up desks are removed from the benches to adjacent open spaces, separated from the bench space only by a glass wall. This transparency not only promotes communication in the labs, but it heightens building performance: by reducing the volume of the bench areas, fewer air changes are necessary and energy usage is diminished. A variety of closed and open computational spaces depending on researchers’ preferences supplement the traditional bench and studio spaces. The innovation labs have been designed to be rented out by startup businesses in the area, establishing the Knight Campus as a community-enhancing institution aimed at attracting partnerships from all around the world to tackle some of society’s most pressing problems.
The unique double-skin façade signals a connection to the Oregon landscape. Sunlight floods the interior through a skin of folded glass panels, emulating water cascading over rock formations and offering views that invite the outdoors inside. High-performance glass shades the lab and office spaces to reduce solar heat gains, improve visual comfort, and emphasize transparency, while putting both nature and science on display. At each of the main entry points, embossed stainless steel walls reflect light from adjacent water features, referencing the nearby Willamette River. The building utilizes CLT (cross-laminated timber), connecting with the surrounding environment as well as the local economy. The highly efficient and sustainable campus is on track to be certified LEED Gold.
The Ennead and Bora team designed an enclosed pedestrian bridge across Franklin Boulevard, connecting the new facility back to existing campus research buildings. The bridge has a tied arch design that is self-supporting, simple, symmetrical and visually light. It features two splayed arches springing from a common support point on each side of the boulevard and uses tension cables to support the bridge enclosure at its floor structure. Illuminated with custom lighting, the bridge lights the way to the Knight Campus.
“Penny and Phil’s extraordinary act of philanthropy powers us to new heights while creating opportunities for students and faculty that will leave an indelible imprint on the community, state and, ultimately, the world,” said Robert Guldberg, vice president and Robert and Leona DeArmond Executive Director of the Knight Campus. “Operating at the intersection of science and society, the Knight Campus will serve as a biotech incubator that will push the frontiers of science and inspire and accelerate global problem solving.”
About Ennead Architects
Ennead is an internationally acclaimed studio with offices in New York City and Shanghai. At the core of Ennead’s values lies a deep and fundamental commitment to create architecture that serves humanity. The firm’s portfolio is diverse, ranging from complex laboratory, research and teaching facilities to performing arts centers and museums, and from large-scale infrastructure projects and campus plans to hotels and residential buildings. Designed to express the progressive missions of their institutions and ensure their sustainable futures, these award-winning buildings are acclaimed for their formal and affective power, technical virtuosity, contributions to the cultural life of their communities and the enhancement of their physical contexts.
About Bora Architecture & Interiors
Bora is an award-winning national design firm based in Portland whose pursuit of inspiring architecture is driven by health, equity and sustainability. Deeply committed to involving their clients in the design process, Bora is passionate about creating transformative environments that shape communities and elevate the human experience. With a specialty in crafting innovative learning spaces for scientific disciplines, the firm has designed complex projects including the multidisciplinary Science & Engineering Quad at Stanford University and Harvey Mudd College’s LEED Gold-certified Shanahan Center for Teaching & Learning. Bora has been recognized for its emphasis on performance, beauty and craft and was named 2016 Firm of the Year for the AIA Northwest and Pacific region.
About the Knight Campus
The University of Oregon's Phil and Penny Knight Campus for Accelerating Scientific Impact is an ambitious initiative to fast-track scientific discoveries into innovations that improve quality of life for people in Oregon, the nation, and the world. The Knight Campus will work to reshape the state’s public higher education landscape by training new generations of scientists, engaging in new interdisciplinary research, forging tighter ties with industry and entrepreneurs, and creating new educational opportunities for graduate and undergraduate students.
Kate Treen, BerlinRosen
Keri Murawski, Ennead Architects