Michigan State University challenged SmithGroup to locate, design, program and build an interdisciplinary facility up to the task of grappling with global concerns in plant science – including climate change, fuel sources, food production and sustainable management of natural resources – and the emerging research approaches to solving them.
The resulting design bridges the gap between plant and soil sciences, previously located in two separate facilities. The new space breaks down departmental silos and is populated with groups based around research interests and common themes, rather than by department, creating unique and innovative explorations.
Moreover, additional connectivity in core spaces, designed to allow for transfer of specimens between chambers, labs and greenhouses without exposure to weather, disease or insects, provides ample opportunity for informal meetings and exchanges.
Recognizing that the Molecular Plant Sciences facility connects to two very different masonry buildings, built at different points in history, the design strategy for the expansion creates a simple, elegant architectural expression. A five-color blend of pre-tumbled, double-fired, green-glazed masonry is reminiscent of moss and a reflection of a living wall. The masonry bridges a gap, both physically and intellectually, between the neighboring buildings and the plant research community.