The Building That Artificial Intelligence Built

Diercks Hall construction. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

The Milwaukee School of Engineering‘s new academic center continues to take shape.

When construction is complete, the building will be known as Dwight and Dian Diercks Computational Science Hall. Located at 1025 N. Milwaukee St., the four-story structure will have four floors of space for classrooms, faculty offices and a 256-seat auditorium.

Long-time MSOE architectural partner Uihlein/Wilson – Ramlow/Stein Architects is designing the 64,000-square-foot building, while Mortenson Construction is leading the general contracting.

The new facility and new bachelors of computer science degree program are being funded by a gift from Dwight Diercks, a 1990 graduate of the school, and his wife Dian. The gift, the largest in the school’s 115-year-history, was made possible by Dwight Diercks’ role as NVIDIA’s vice president of software engineering at the approximately 11,000 employee tech company. He’s been with the California-based company since the early 1990’s when he joined as the 22nd employee.

NVIDIA’s technology, both hardware and software, is used in everything from computer gaming and graphics processing to self-driving vehicle and cryptocurrency computation. The new facility will include a computing cluster laden with graphics processing units that will enable large-scale applications and computations to be executed by MSOE students, staff and partners.

The company has seen a rapid rise in its stock in recent years. When Dr. John Walz became MSOE President on July 1st, 2016, the stock was trading at $46.66 per share. When the gift was announced in October 2017 the stock was trading at $198.35 per share. The morning of the late April groundbreaking the stock was at $228.71. When we covered the project in late August the stock was trading for $271.92. After peaking at $292.76, the stock has yet to recover from the late 2018 pullback, trading at $156.45 today. Still an impressive 300 percent gain in under three years.

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Much of the site has been a parking lot for over a decade. It was the long-time home of the Welsh Presbyterian Church. The church was built in 1854, and demolished by the university in 1988. More recently, MSOE demolished the “C ” on the south end of the site in 2005. The C was originally built by the nearby German English Academy and was acquired by the university in 1948 and used as an administrative building.

The new building underwritten by Diercks will back up to the Grohmann Museum, which houses classrooms, an art collection and a rooftop gathering space for the school, and the building that once housed the German English Academy. That building is currently undergoing a $9 million renovation funded by Direct Supply, which is leasing space in the facility to better connect with the university.

The computational science hall and new degree program will both open to students this coming fall. If you can’t wait to see what the facade will look, sample materials sit near the sidewalk along N. Broadway.

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