HDR Designs New Home for Groundbreaking Research in Computer Sciences at University of Maryland

A striking presence at the corner of Baltimore Avenue and Campus Drive, the University of Maryland's new Brendan Iribe Center will be a hub for technology at the heart of an emerging innovation district. Situated amongst high-tech companies, government agencies and institutional colleagues, the anticipated center is fueled by a $31 million gift from Oculus VR co-founder and CEO Brendan Iribe and designed by HDR.

Bringing together the university's top-ranked Department of Computer Science and its renowned Institute for Advanced Computer Studies (UMIACS), the center's 215,600 square feet and six floors of specialized labs will support groundbreaking research in virtual and augmented reality, artificial intelligence, robotics, computer vision, algorithms, and programming languages / systems.

"The Iribe Center will challenge students and faculty alike to push the boundaries for their computer studies and reinforce the future business potential that it offers," describes Brian Kowalchuk, HDR's director of design. "The architecture ties not only to the rich culture of the university's past with its site organization, but clearly points to its future through both form and materiality—becoming an actual and virtual gateway for the college park campus and a home for both serious and playful reality."

Oculus VR's Iribe led a "virtual" groundbreaking on April 30, 2016 as participants wore Oculus VR glasses and visualized his virtual shovel break ground at the virtual site of the Iribe Center.

The building will house nationally recognized centers of interdisciplinary research in cybersecurity, computational biology, quantum computing, data science, and other fast-growing tech fields. The advances developed here will help create a virtuous cycle of innovation, establishing Maryland tech companies and adding to the state's economic development.

Students and faculty alike will experiment and create in open work areas and makerspaces filled with natural light. Flexible classrooms will promote teamwork and active learning. And welcoming common areas—including an expansive green space along Baltimore Avenue—will extend the collaborative environment to the broader community.

"The building will foster the kind of collaboration that reinforces personal thought augmented by the benefits of team-based learning," said Kowalchuk. "Its transparency will connect the virtual cyber world to the surrounding vegetative beauty."

Site visits to Facebook, Oculus VR, Google, and other technology "disruptors" gave the Iribe Center's design team an inside look at how to create a building that propels innovation. The result will be a facility that offers unprecedented opportunities for students and faculty to explore and imagine bold new applications of computer science.

In the Iribe Center's dynamic, collaborative makerspaces, students will use sensors, microcontrollers, 3-D printers, robots, quadcopters and other components to create new hardware and software. Students will have 24/7 keycard access, so these creative workshops will buzz with energy day and night.

Innovation thrives on novel ideas for solving problems, so students from every discipline will be welcome at the center. Dancers and athletes, for example, will be able to leverage the motion-capture lab to record and perfect precise movement.

In virtual and augmented reality labs, students will build immersive multimedia experiences and environments that engage bold new possibilities presented by smartphones, smart glasses and virtual reality devices.

Since 2009, enrollment in the University of Maryland's Department of Computer Science has tripled to approximately 2,300 students and is expected to continue growing into the next decade. Existing facilities can't keep up, and students and faculty are scattered throughout four existing buildings on campus.

The Iribe Center will change all of that, increasing the number of classrooms and consolidating the computer science and engineering community into a single facility that spurs pioneering research and serves students from practically every major:

  • Eight collaborative classrooms with interactive technologies and flexible seating, collaborative group work and experiential courses.
  • Thirteen spacious labs featuring latest equipment and software to support student learning.
  • Five seminar rooms enabling in-depth coverage of special topics and creative projects in multidisciplinary computing fields.

Faculty members will work in close proximity to talented colleagues as they expand the University of Maryland's expertise in emerging areas such as wearable technologies and mobile development.

Additionally, a $4 million gift from Oculus chief software architect and co-founder Michael Antonov, and $3 million from Elizabeth Iribe, are helping to make the new center possible and increasing scholarship and endowment support for students and faculty. To honor the memory of Andrew Reisse, also an Oculus co-founder, the rooftop garden will be named Reisse Park.  Iribe, Reisse and Antonov met as students at the University of Maryland.

Fast Facts:

  • 215,600 gross square feet
  • more than 4,000 people, peak daily usage
  • 5,300-square-foot makerspace
  • 785 seats of instructional space
  • 620 regular occupants
  • 13 computer labs
  • 8 classrooms
  • 5 seminar rooms
  • 20,000 square foot of community space
  • Anticipated opening: 2017