New lab combines modern design, powerful infrastructure


Kelly Headden photo

BarberMcMurry Architects is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, but its latest project — the Joint Institute for Advanced Materials building — was a milestone of sorts.

“(It’s) probably the most complicated infrastructure building we’ve ever worked on,” said Kelly Headden, the firm’s senior vice president.

That description came last week during a tour of the facility that was led by BarberMcMurry and hosted by the Urban Land Institute. The JIAM building is the first at UT’s Cherokee Farm, a new research campus located across Alcoa Highway from the university’s main campus.


Kelly Headden photo

The building’s design features interior lab space ringed by glass-walled offices (at left in the adjacent photo), which were designed to allow as much natural light as possible into the building’s core. That’s one of the sustainability features which the design team hopes will result in a LEED Silver certification for the property.

Many of the building’s researchers will use instruments that are highly sensitive to vibration, and the lab spaces that will house transmission electron microscopes were designed with limited air movement and special fabric blankets on the walls to mute such vibrations. One lab featured on the tour had a large grate in the floor, allowing researchers to gain access to instruments and equipment from below.

Some of the building’s walls feature back-painted glass — allowing scientists to write on them with markers or Sharpies — and outdoor patios offer long views of the Tennessee River.

Chad Boetger, of BarberMcMurry, described the building’s design aesthetic — which includes two tones of exterior brick, offset by zinc and aluminum panels and copper that has gone through a patina process — as “accessible modern.” It’s a different look than that of a traditional college campus, but in keeping with the research focus of Cherokee Farm.


The Cherokee Farm tour was the second this year for ULI’s Knoxville group, which is a satellite of the Atlanta chapter. Details about becoming a ULI member can be found here.



Christina Rouse photo


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