This new facility was designed for scientists developing strains of corn that resist disease, insects, and drought. The 55,400 square foot program includes a laboratory building, a headhouse, an equipment building, and 12,000 square feet of compartmentalized greenhouses. The site allows for experimental cornfields and two future phases of expansion that will triple the size of the facility over the next ten years.

The buildings' forms and colors and their relation to the site recall traditional barns and farm buildings, befitting the facility's purpose. The structures are arranged with the greenhouses facing south, taking advantage of daylight. Sensors allow the computerized lights and vents to activate as light and temperature conditions change. The linear headhouse includes areas for soil preparation and climate-controlled growth chambers.

Laboratories are located on the east side of the building; offices with large windows are on the west. While the equipment rooms, bathrooms, and darkrooms form the central spine of the building, a three-story, skylit library is the focus of both vertical and horizontal circulation. The research sequence begins in second floor laboratories with the identification of specific genetic characteristics of plant cells. The work then proceeds to first floor laboratories, where tiny plants are grown from single cells. It then moves to headhouse growth chambers for small plants and on to the greenhouse or fields.

The buildings surround a service courtyard, the shipping/receiving and recycling area for the entire complex. This courtyard, which contains garages for farm equipment, can be secured with large wooden rolling doors. The Discovery Research Center is very economical, thanks to a careful organization of functional spaces, use of traditional building materials, and mechanical systems that save energy through extensive heat and cold recovery.

Photography © Jeff Goldberg/Esto