PAGE 1 OF 3
JANELIA FARM — OPEN FOR DISCOVERY:
Let The Science Begin
by Mary Beth Gardiner
After six years and "hundreds and hundreds" of drawings, Janelia Farm design wizard Robert H. McGhee can finally allow himself a moment of satisfaction.
“It’s working,” he says with a tinge of pride. “It’s nice to see the campus cleaned up and being used. You think about things for a long time and you envision how things are going to work, but you never know for sure. I’m pleased.”
An architect and an interior designer, McGhee wrote the detailed architectural program for Janelia Farm, including how many labs, offices, guest rooms, and meeting spaces were needed, and then went on to develop designs and specifications for the furniture and fixtures that fill Janelia’s interior spaces—even the color scheme that runs throughout. McGhee received lots of input from HHMI trustees and leadership, along with an advisory committee and other experts, but he brought decades of experience to the task.
As the Institute architect and facilities officer since 1985, McGhee has designed new facilities and directed renovations for HHMI investigator sites around the country. McGhee’s interiors work hand-in-hand with the architectural plans created by principal architect Rafael Viñoly (see related story "Collective Soul"). Viñoly’s visionary design includes enormous stretches of glass, creating corridors and labs that look out onto rooftop gardens and the hillsides beyond. The link with nature is felt throughout the building, with a mix of natural and recycled materials.
“The design of this place is phenomenal. Every detail that really matters has been thought out,” says Sean R. Eddy, a Janelia Farm group leader and computational biologist who was previously an HHMI investigator at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. “Bob McGhee spent hours working with me on the design of our offices and computer spaces. At every other place I’ve worked, computational biology labs were designed as an afterthought, placed in converted wet labs or in cubicles.” That doesn’t work well, says Eddy, for people who spend 12-plus hours a day thinking hard and working at a computer. “People need windows and sunlight and a much more human environment or they stop thinking efficiently.”
Photos: Paul Fetters