Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory

Batavia, IL

As the leader of a consortium, Urbahn developed the master plan for the National Accelerator Laboratory, home of the 400 billion electron-volt particle accelerator, the country’s most powerful atomic collider. The master planning involved close collaboration with Director Dr. Robert Wilson, resulting in a complex that departs from “government laboratory design”, and instead celebrates nature and the dignity of mankind. The 6,800-acre site incorporated a prairie, complete with a herd of bison, formal and informal gardens, numerous sculptures, a residential village, and a range of public trails.

Urbahn designed several buildings, including the research headquarters Wilson Hall. To fulfill the director’s vision of a “cathedral to science”, we designed it as a soaring 16-story A-shaped tower comprised of two separate structures linked by a series of internal bridges. The 80-foot high windows frame the ends, flooding the lushly landscaped interior with natural light. The building contains high-energy laboratories, research library, computer center, cafeteria, auditorium, and administrative areas. Urbahn was also responsible for three of the particle laboratories: Meson, Muon, and Proton.

The design was acknowledged in 1975 with an award from the Society of American Registered Architects.