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Merit Award Winner

Project Name:  MDL at Argonne National Laboratory 
Location:  Lemont, Illinois
Design Team:  Flad Architects

The Materials Design Laboratory (MDL) project completed the fourth and final phase of the research quad at Argonne National Laboratory. The project’s scope included a realignment strategy for Northgate Road, expanded surface parking for researchers, and improved pedestrian connections among the MDL and existing buildings in and around the quad. 

The MDL project enabled consolidation of various laboratory functions into a centralized grouping of research functions. Allowing researchers from various fields to work closely together in a campus quad setting, the project increases opportunities for collaboration and insight. 

The MDL provides a dramatic arrival sequence to the laboratory – as the first building seen by people visiting the campus, the facility serves as the gateway to Argonne National Laboratory, while also facilitating pedestrian circulation throughout the quad and surrounding buildings.


Service functions are screened from view while northern and eastern exposures provide views to the city beyond the campus. The realignment of Northgate Road and the pedestrian friendly streetscape enhancements unify the campus and improves safety. 

The project team reorganized parking and dock access across Northgate Road to create a pedestrian spine centered on the MDL entrance. Pedestrian safety is improved by reducing the number of street crossings on Northgate Road. Two colored concrete sine waves dance through the pavement, slicing through curbs and dividing plant beds as a nod to the material science work being done within the MDL. 

The pedestrian spine passes through the lobby of the building and terminates in a courtyard on the building’s northwest side. The courtyard provides an outdoor route to access the Energy Sciences Building (ESB) to the west. Additional bioswales were added north of the parking lots to account for the additional runoff from the courtyard. 

The courtyard will have moveable tables and chairs, allowing outdoor eating and gathering. Bench- height walls and steps provide additional options for seating. A rooftop connection from MDL to ESB overlooks the facility’s courtyard and provides another opportunity for pedestrians to travel between the buildings in the quad. The paver pattern mimics the window openings in the western facade of the MDL building, with alternating tan and gray paver stripes.


The MDL project achieved LEED Gold status in part due to water use reduction from native and adaptive plants and improving stormwater control strategies, such as the naturalized stormwater infiltration zone and bioswales, north of the building site. 

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