New Science Building in Design

Published on July 8th, 2011

Centerbrook is designing a new 98,332-square-foot Academic and Laboratory Science building on the New Haven campus of Southern Connecticut State University.

“L” shaped to close a “science enclave” in concert with a pre-existing science complex, the new building will assume a totemic role for the sciences, bedecked with displays and scientific instrumentation visible from both within and without. Embracing innovative sustainable design, it will predominantly house teaching and research laboratories for nano-technology, physics and optics, the earth sciences, the environmental sciences, cancer research, astronomy, biology, and chemistry.

The building’s two wings will be interconnected at all floors by a meandering “village street,” windowed along its southern exposure that faces the newly formed science enclave. It is along this sociable path that aquaria, enlarged mock nano-tubes, optics displays, rock formations, biological specimens and astrological videos will be interspersed among sun-filled lounges, all to encourage interaction between different scientific disciplines. The community “street” will expand at all four floor levels into an oval shaped, faceted glass “piazza” through which passersby can peer into the science enclave to glimpse its geological garden of boulders, rain water aqueducts leading to an underground cistern, a commissioned science sculpture, and a hands-on experimental botanical garden.

Pitched roofs will shelter two attics full of industrial fans exhausting 83 fume hoods. They have been designed to accept photovoltaic solar collectors on their south oriented slopes. A portion of the roofs has been left flat to accommodate six experimental, Dobsonian astronomical telescopes that will exit a storage garage located under the pitched roof and be wheeled into formation for experiments throughout the year.

The curtain wall facing the enclave will incorporate a variety of glazing types, shading coefficients, fritted patterns, insulated opaque panels, spandrel glass, sun screens and sun shades, all determined by 3-D shading studies and energy models. Sun-filled sitting areas, sought by students during the cold months of the school year, will be equipped to eliminate glare, while a high-mass, masonry wall will act as a “heat flywheel” under the passive solar heat gain. Different interior uses along the curtain wall have distinct solar shading responses appropriate for their particular functions. Kinetic finials integral to the curtain wall’s exterior will be either functioning or ornamental scientific instruments on display. They will give the building an identifying language as a place of scientific study, research, and discovery. This building will tell stories, and stories will be told about this building. This is how we hope it will enrich our lives beyond mere shelter, how it will become memorable and eventually beloved.

Founded in 1893 and located near the historic Westville Village section of the city, Southern Connecticut State University and its 700-plus faculty members offer 116 graduate and undergraduate programs to some 12,000 students. The school is part of the Connecticut State University System. Jefferson B. Riley, FAIA, is the Partner-in-Charge of the design team, and Reno Migani, AIA, is the Project Manager. The building is being entirely designed and documented in BIM using Revit.