Centerbrook designed the new Academic Science & Laboratory Building for Southern Connecticut State University to expand and enhance its STEM curricula. It is both a state-of-the-art teaching and learning environment as well as an artfully designed structural centerpiece for the university.
Configured in an L-shape, the 103,608-square-foot building works in concert with two pre-existing science buildings — Jennings and Morrill Hall — to enclose a new “science enclave.” Bedecked with research displays and instrumentation visible from within and outside the building, the new center is emblematic of the importance of the sciences on campus. Embracing innovative sustainable design, it houses teaching and research training laboratories for the Center for Nanotechnology, Physics, Optics, Materials Sciences, Astronomy, the Center for Coastal and Marine Studies, Environmental Studies, Earth Sciences, Chemistry and Biology.
The building’s two wings are joined at each of its four floors by an alluring connector that is windowed along its southern exposure and encircles the newly formed science enclave outside. It is along the glass-enclosed path that built-in displays of optical phenomena, the natural environment, nanotechnology, geological formations, biological specimens, and astronomical observations will be interspersed among sun-filled lounges, all to advance interaction among the different scientific disciplines.
This connector expands at its midpoint to form an oval-shaped, faceted glass quadrangle. Through this focal point, passersby will be able to peer into the science enclave to glimpse its geological garden of boulders, its system of rain water aqueducts leading to an underground cistern, a commissioned science sculpture, and its hand-on experimental botanical garden. The interior of the glass piazza will display structural elements that echo the shape and function of a whale’s skeletal vertebrae, two large aquaria representing both deep water and coastal marine life of Long Island Sound, an oversized mock nanotube, balcony rails that glow with gossamer scientific effects, and a small impromptu video theater, all intended to set this center place ablaze with wonder.
Portion of the roof have also been left flat to accommodate six Dobsonian telescopes that can be wheeled from their “home port” garage, located under the pitched roof, onto the rooftop for astronomical experiments throughout the year.
With the aid of computerized 3D shading studies and energy models, the south-facing curtain wall system has been designed to employ a variety of envelope materials and devices including different glazing types, glass frit patterns, insulated opaque panels, spandrel glass, sun screens and sun shades. Sun-filled sitting areas are shaded from glare, while different interior occupations along the curtain wall have distinct solar shading responses appropriate for their particular purposes. Kinetic helio-spires, articulated metal and concrete panels, and expressed infrastructure integral to the exterior surfaces, are either functioning or scientific ornament on display. They give the building a language to signal and celebrate that it is a place of scientific study, research and discovery.