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UK College of Design breaks ground on new home

CofD Groundbreaking
UK Photo
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Representatives take part in a ceremonial groundbreaking for the new Gray Design Building at UK.From left: Eric Monday, Bob Hafferman, Kevin Atkins, Jim Gray, Robert DiPaola, Don Witt, Robert Vance, Mitzi Vernon, Juliane Wolf and Jeanne Gang.

The University of Kentucky broke ground Monday on a new College of Design, but it won't be housed in a new building. WUKY's Josh James has the story.

The University of Kentucky held a ceremonial groundbreaking for the College of Design’s (CoD) new home — the Gray Design Building. Previously the Reynolds Building — a former tobacco warehouse that has been empty for several years — the new facility will house CoD’s five programs, in addition to landscape architecture and biomedical engineering studio, creating the first space where the college’s students, faculty, staff and programs will be housed in one location.

“Across our campus, classrooms, residential areas and research spaces are changing to meet the demands of a 21st century living and learning experience,” said UK President Eli Capilouto. “The Gray Design Building will serve as a critical nexus between the UK campus and the larger community, enhancing what we do academically, in service to our state and as a symbol of inextricable links between the university and the city of Lexington.”

The transformation is being made possible by a gift of $5.25 million from Gray Inc., which includes companies related to engineering, design, construction, automation, equipment manufacturing and real estate, and members of the Gray family. The family has deep roots in Lexington and the Commonwealth and is recognized as an industry leader in design-build. Part of the Gray gift includes a portion dedicated to a design-build program within the School of Architecture.

In addition to the Gray gift, the building was made possible by a collaborative effort of more than 75 gifts to date, ranging from studio desk sponsorships to the naming of major spaces.

“At the heart of who we are and what we do is the foundation our parents instilled of giving back — giving back to the communities where we live and where we build. This value has been a touchstone for more than 60 years,” said Jim Gray, chairman of Gray Inc. “This is a generational opportunity for us to give back to a college that has meant so much to our family and team members.”

The move will allow for even greater collaboration between the college and other programs across the campus, including Landscape Architecture, which will co-habitate with CoD in the new structure, and Biomedical Engineering, which will share studio space and curriculum with the new Product Design program. In collaboration with UK’s College of Engineering and the Gatton College of Business and Economics, the CoD will also work with faculty leadership to establish a nationally recognized design-build curriculum.

“In the Gray Design Building, the College of Design will finally be housed in one common space,” said Mitzi Vernon, dean of the UK College of Design. “In the wide open, newly appointed warehouse I imagine students, from seven different disciplines surrounded by their neighbor’s innovation as they walk through the building — ‘polycultural.’”

The project was designed by internationally renowned architecture practice Studio Gang over the last several years, and when complete, will represent one of the most significant examples on the UK campus of “adaptive reuse” — an approach to architecture that creatively repurposes existing buildings for new purposes.

“By reimagining a 100-year-old tobacco warehouse into a 21st century design school, the Gray Design Building embodies the creativity that all design students will be learning to harness while they are at the University of Kentucky,” said Jeanne Gang, the founding principal and partner of Studio Gang. “By starting with what’s there, our design pays tribute to the history of the university’s campus while minimizing the environmental impact of the project to help prepare for its future.”

Construction is scheduled for completion by the end of 2023.

The CoD currently offers eight degrees, graduate and undergraduate, and five certificates. To date, there are almost 3,500 alumni of the college.

Learn more about the CoD’s new home at https://design.uky.edu/newbuilding.

About Studio Gang

Studio Gang is an international architecture and urban design practice founded and led by Jeanne Gang. Driven by an ethos of actionable idealism, the studio uses a research-based design process to create striking places that build stronger relationships between people, their communities and the natural environment. The studio’s award-winning work ranges from community centers and cultural institutions such as Writers Theatre to tall buildings like Aqua Tower and Solar Carve that foster community. Upcoming projects include an expansion to the American Museum of Natural History; a new United States Embassy in Brazil; a unified campus for California College of the Arts and the Global Terminal at O’Hare International Airport. Regularly named one Fast Company’s Most Innovative Architecture Companies, Studio Gang is headquartered in Chicago with offices in New York, San Francisco and Paris.

About Gray

Gray Inc. is the guiding company for 12 separate Gray operating companies. These 12 Gray companies have a strategic presence in select locations in North America and Europe individually or collectively providing engineering, design and construction, along with digital, equipment manufacturing and real estate services. Consistently ranked as a leader in the industry, Gray focuses on the following markets for domestic and international customers: Food & Beverage, Manufacturing, Automotive, Distribution, Mission Critical and Commercial. Founded in 1960, Gray’s robust offering enables the company to create one-of-a-kind solutions at the highest levels of customization, delivering unmatched precision and partnership to some of the world’s most sophisticated organizations. For more information on Gray, visit www.gray.com and follow @Gray.

Josh James fell in love with college radio at Western Kentucky University's student station, New Rock 92 (now Revolution 91.7). After working as a DJ and program director, he knew he wanted to come home to Lexington and try his hand in public radio.