Albert Vecerka / ESTO Photographics
Credit: Albert Vecerka / ESTO Photographics
Albert Vecerka / ESTO Photographics
Credit: Albert Vecerka / ESTO Photographics
Contributed by:
Ezra Loh
Assoc. AIA

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Detail Matters: Brain Power

Opened in September 2017, the University of Texas at Dallas’ Brain Performance Institute (BPI) is a component institution of the University of Texas System and the Center for BrainHealth.

BPI was established to deliver science-based innovations to the public that enhance brain health, heal brain injury, and manage or treat brain disease. Its customized programs target diverse clients, including veterans and their families, Alzheimer’s and other dementia patients and their families, individuals on the autism spectrum, and people of all ages looking to enhance their brain health and cognition.

The three-story, 62,000-square-foot structure is made up of an iconic elliptical volume punctuated with steel fins that emerge from its more reserved partner, a rectilinear L-shaped volume clad in dark fiber cement panels. Structure and skin are purposefully combined, as their integration results in an unobstructed grand lobby within the ellipse’s core.

View from drop-off. / Credit: Albert Vecerka / ESTO Photographics

The organic form is inspired by the shape of the brain’s frontal lobe, while the detailing of the fins is reminiscent of the lines on an electroencephalogram (EEG), a scan used to identify problems related to brain function by measuring electrical activity.

Credit: Page

Seventy-eight steel-plate fins, which measure 2 inches thick, 2-feet-6 inches deep and extend 62-feet high, define the building’s character and are the ellipse’s primary structural system. Plate steel, which is not typically used as vertical structural members in this manner, is an innovative design solution allowing for a column-free interior space.

Credit: Page

“By working directly with Thomas Taylor, Hon. TxA, from Datum Engineering, we were able create an extremely light structural solution that was also functional as a shading device for the building, which is particularly important to limiting heat gain during the intense Texas summers,” explains Robert Doane, AIA, Page principal and project director. “Through the creative design process, our team was able to establish a design methodology to allow for highly precise off-site fabrication of these elements and ensure an exceptional and cost-effective construction approach.”

View of fins in live lobby. / Credit: Albert Vecerka / ESTO Photographics

Great care was taken in developing and detailing a “thermal break” between the structural system and the glazing system. Collaboration with the glass frame manufacturer resulted in an interior mullion system design that is fully insulated and separated from the structural steel elements both horizontally and vertically. Spacing elements were purposefully designed to integrate with the structural fins to accommodate the differential angles of each vertical glass panel. This allowed for a unitized glazing system to be delivered to the project site and final installation to be adjusted with each individual chord without having to customize every vertical pane of glazing throughout the ellipse.

View of live lobby. / Credit: Albert Vecerka / ESTO Photographics

Through its use of unique structural features and careful detailing, the live lobby space is unobstructed, allowing for functional flexibility and abundant daylighting throughout the building, and creates a dynamic and spiritual space for healing as well as enhancing cognitive functions.

Ezra Loh, Assoc. AIA, is with  Droese Raney Architecture Inc.

Project Team:

CLIENT: The University of Texas at Dallas’ Center for BrainHealth


TEAM: Mattia Flabiano III, AIA; Lawrence Speck, FAIA; Robert Doane, AIA, AHCA; James Tanner, AIA; Ricardo Muñoz, AIA; Wenguel Yohannes; Hilary Bales-Morales, AIA, ACHA, EDAC; Claire Purmort, IIDA; Monica Serowski; Dee Maxey, AIA; Lanny Huggins; and Tim Barry




TECHNOLOGY: Datacom Design Group LLC