At 106,000 square feet, Hillman Hall by Moore Ruble Yudell (MRY) and Mackey Mitchell Architects doubles the footprint of Washington University’s George Warren Brown School of Social Work. According to MRY partner Buzz Yudell, the expansion was intended not only to accommodate students, faculty, and local residents but also to amplify their kinship. “That meant opening up the building more than the university’s traditional Gothic structures allowed,” Yudell says.

The centerpiece of Hillman Hall is a glazed rotunda known as the Maxine Clark and Bob Fox Forum, a double-height volume that projects from an undulating northwest elevation to maximize visibility to the Brown School’s two existing facilities and wider campus. “It is used all day and into the evening,” Yudell explains. “It can host colloquia, parties, lectures, and events and reverts to informal study and gathering.” The Forum’s focal point is a suspended woodwork ceiling with maple-veneered members that radiate from an oculus. This “shrouds quite a bit of ductwork and all the equipment required for multifunctionality,” says Gabe Guilliams, associate principal of lighting at BuroHappold Engineering, which collaborated on the project. “It also provides the illumination that makes transparency legible.”

To transform this decorative veil into a chandelier, the design team embedded the tops of individual members with 1,900 linear feet of LED Feelux luminaires. The magnetically backed fixtures, also connected by HDV, uplight the ceiling evenly at a color temperature of 3000K. “Ten years ago, that wouldn’t have been possible, but with lowvoltage LED fixtures the size of a pencil, we could route channels into the wood,” Guilliams says.