New Science Center

Designed by: Payette
For client: www.amherst.edu Floor area: 23320.00 M² Year of completion: 2018
Submitted for: Learning Space of the Year

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© Chuck Choi

Integrated, performance-based thinking guided major architectural decisions including the customized skylights running the length of the building. The sinuous roof monitors both animate the roofline and improve daylight quality, but also serve multiple fu

About the Project

Faced with an aging science center, the client sought a new, forward-looking building that would create an open learning environment for the entire campus community. Anchoring the eastern edge of the campus and set against the Pelham Hills beyond, the New Science Center is a collection of five distinct building components nestled into the new Campus Greenway. The component include two high energy laboratory wings to the east and three pavilions of low intensity uses extending west toward the hilltop academic core.

Clearly articulated, minimally expressed natural materials permeate the project, nesting a contemporary building into the more traditional legacy of this rural campus. From handmade gray bricks recalling local stone walls to the custom weathering steel screens complementing the tones of nearby red brick structures, the project embraces craft and detailing as the natural tie to its context.

The design team engaged in over 200 design and programming meetings with College representatives in senior leadership roles, faculty, facilities operational staff and students. Students were engaged to ensure the design team received input from under-represented minority groups and first-generation students. Based on feedback, community spaces were created throughout the building to reinforce social and behavioral cues supporting scholarship and strengthening student-to-student and student-to-faculty relationships that are the hallmark of the College’s science education.

What’s unique about it

From overall organization to detailing, the design promotes transparency and interaction. The building is the result of three years of program and design meetings between the team and campus community to provide an experience defined by an intimate, connected and socially engaged community. Research and teaching laboratories are structured to support both subject foundational instruction and interdisciplinary exploration, while classrooms are adapted to new pedagogies and active learning to serve students from across the campus.

The Commons serves as the building’s social heart, welcoming the entire academic community through a campus scaled gesture — an ultra-transparent window into science. The Commons is centrally-located and grounded by custom nature-inspired area rugs on a textured stone floor. Just outside the teaching labs, the space dubbed the “Living Room,” includes community study tables and oversized modular sofas to create a comfortable, home-like experience where students can hang out, study and socialize. Finely-crafted skylights run the length of the building, enhancing the quality of daylight within. The Greenway’s color palette courses throughout the Living Room, complementing the natural warmth of wood used extensively throughout the building.

Through the use of transparency, sustainability strategies and meticulous craft, the New Science Center has served as a catalyst for an incredible campus transformation.

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© Chuck Choi

The undulation of the Greenway landscape seamlessly meets the Science Center’s glass façade, blurring the edges of the Commons and creating a gathering space that feels like an extension of the outdoors.

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© Chuck Choi

Contemplative spaces throughout the building are found at the ends of corridors and provide quieter environments for smaller groups to meet and interact with remarkable views of the campus and hills beyond.

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© Chuck Choi

Centers for statistical tutoring and math assistance are now signature spaces, no longer marginalized or stigmatized; they are collocated with a reimagined science library that emphasizes access to digital research methods.

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© Robert Benson

Clear lines of sight and a network of open stairs allow users to feel intimately connected to each other while also promoting a culture of proximity and walk up circulation rather than elevators.

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© Chuck Choi

Community tables are centrally organized between two living room style lounge arrangements including modular sofas and ottomans. The soft seating is configured on custom nature-inspired area rugs placed over a unifying stone floor.

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© Robert Benson Photography

The centrally located Commons offers an open, lively and energetic learning environment envisioned as a place for students to retreat.

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© Robert Benson Photography

Through conversations with faculty and building users during initial occupany reviews, it was revealed to the design team that the informal learnings spaces have become heavily used and consistently occupied, even by non-science students.

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© Chuck Choi

The network of community spaces, including the laboratories, were designed with maximum transparency to allow natural light to filter throughout the building, enhancing visibility between interior spaces and strengthening student-to-student and student-to

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© Chuck Choi

Student research is the focus of innovative laboratory configurations. For all disciplines, open write-up spaces adjacent to the laboratories and faculty offices encourage impromptu discussion and promote peer-to-peer learning, safety and faculty accessib

The commons, transparent and welcoming to the campus, links the sciences to the larger campus commun

Location of project:
Credits:

VanZelm Engineers

Nitsch Engineering

Acentech

Available Light

Integral Group

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