Constitution Text Inspires Immigration Building Design
Becoming a citizen of the United States requires study, effort, patience—and a lot of paperwork. But when the interviews are completed and the forms filled out, individuals raise their hands and swear allegiance to their new country. Chicago-based 4240 Architecture wanted to provide a proper setting for that transformative experience, so they designed a two-story, glass-enclosed Ceremony Room for the new U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) building in Irving, Texas. Positioned along a busy highway, the light-filled room will not only be an uplifting space but also gleam “like a beacon,” says 4240 design director Robert Benson: “Think of it as Lady Liberty’s torch.”
The USCIS, a component of the Department of Homeland Security, selected the team of 4240 and Winston-Salem-based developer JDL Castle in 2006 under the General Services Administration’s Design Excellence Program to design and build a new 56,000-square-foot facility to replace two separate, outdated USCIS offices. The structure needed to meet security requirements while remaining welcoming—even inspirational. “It shouldn’t feel like a bunker,” Benson says.
So in addition to creating light-filled spaces, the architects designed a building that reveals more detail about itself the more that visitors study it. For instance, giant screen-printed words spelling “I will support and defend the Constitution” wrap around the Ceremony Room; they, in turn, are formed out of smaller words that reproduce the text of the Constitution. The building thus serves as a metaphor for a new citizen’s deepened understanding of what it means to be an American.
Aiming for LEED Silver certification with the project, the design team paid particular attention to providing protection from the hot Texas sun with roof overhangs, a brise soleil, and protective glass. Currently under construction, the $22.9 million USCIS building is due to open this summer.