After two years spent at the venerable California Institute of Technology, with its world-class status in science, mathematics, and engineering, you’d think that Mike Goetz might have come away with, say, a deep understanding of some arcane theorem. Nope. Goetz is a senior designer at HOK, and his time on Caltech’s Pasadena campus was devoted not to academic pursuits but to renovating the home of the math and physics departments. And what did he learn? The importance of. . . chalk. Which requires lots of places to put it. That’s because, as he discovered, the entire faculty still writes with chalk, on blackboards, as a form of mind-body communication.
So chalk was factor number one in his design equation. Here’s another: history. The renovation involved a pair of conjoined structures, the earliest being a 1922 building by architect Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue. Originally known as the Sloan Lab, it was the first U.S. laboratory to have a million-volt power source. Then, in 1931, a wing called the Kellogg Building—three stories and two subterranean levels, like the Sloan Lab—was added to form an L. The last major renovation of Sloan Lab had occurred in 1959.