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Putting a modern twist on historic Pomerene Hall

The bones of the original Pomerene Hall are still easy to see as the bustle of construction continues in the new home to The Ohio State University’s Translational Data Analytics Institute.

A completely renovated Pomerene Hall is expected to open in a little under a year. A tour of the construction site this week reveals how the historic building will help lead Ohio State into a bold new future for research.

This month, the university announced the creation of the TDAI. Pomerene Hall will house the new institute and offer a home for the students and faculty to channel the power of Big Data as a force to do good.

Translational data analytics is using data to solve complex problems such as boosting crop production to feed famine-ravaged communities or study how violence spreads like a disease.

“These laudable goals will be achieved through scholarship and outreach in both foundational and applied areas of data science,” said TDAI’s interim executive director Raghu Machiraju. “The deployment of comprehensive and holistic solutions that includes all pillars of data science is imperative given the complex and conflicting objectives that have to be met in the aforementioned problems.”

Likely the most eye-catching feature in the new Pomerene Hall will be a three-story glass atrium that will overlook Browning Amphitheater and connect all levels of the building. Right now steel, concrete and the restored exterior of Pomerene show a work in progress.

But one can see where this is all headed. New offices in the building will have flexible spaces to allow collaborators to swiftly expand the size of a team. Quiet rooms will allow researchers to switch off the noise and focus on critical problem solving.

Historic features will remain in the new building

Pomerene Hall was once home to the university’s first women’s student union and includes an historic gymnasium. Teamwork will again fill that space when it becomes home to three state-of-the-art labs loaded with interactive displays and glass boards for working out complex problems.

These “ideation labs” and “huddle rooms” may sound like a Google-style playground for high-tech hipsters. It’s really about form serving function, TDIA managing director David Mongeau said.

Institute planners learned a lot from local tech firms and startup incubators. Moreover, they had the benefit of working with the architect and construction firm from the very beginning.

“We’ve had so much dialogue with the construction firm and the architects. The architects really got into our heads and tried to understand what we needed,” Mongeau said.

TDAI faculty members have offered input into the design of their new home.

“There’s ownership now,” Machiraju said.

Collaboration doesn’t stop with the institute’s faculty and students. Pomerene will host representatives from the Wexner Medical Center, university libraries, the Ohio Supercomputer Center and other data-rich organizations.

“This is significant because as a current staff or faculty member you have to go to those respective places to find out about the resources. There’s not a central place to go to talk to someone from each of those offices. You’ll be able to do that right here,” said TDAI project coordinator Jenna McGuire.

Pomerene Hall, which is also home to the History of Art Department, is part of a $59 million construction plan in the Mirror Lake District. It will include renovations to Oxley Hall.

The project aligns with Ohio State’s campus master plan, Framework 2.0, serving as a long-term guiding vision that imagines transformational research and learning environments over the next decade and beyond