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Sense of Place

Academic Science and Laboratory Building, Southern Connecticut State University

University Business, June 2016
  • Southern Connecticut State University’s new science building incorporates science lessons into the architecture, including an outdoor rock garden featuring samples of local geology.
  • A symbolic nanotube that rises four floors.
  • More than 100 scientific images are displayed in walkway panels.

An eye-catching new home for STEM departments and programs at Southern Connecticut State University in New Haven is part of the university’s efforts to boost its curriculum in those disciplines.

In addition to physics, biology and chemistry classes, the building hosts the Werth Center for Coastal and Marine Studies as well as the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities Center for Nanotechnology. 

Challenge

As part of its plan to increase STEM graduates by 35 percent over the next decade, SCSU expanded its STEM-based curriculum and is partnering with other schools, such as nearby Yale University, on nanotechnology research.

Relationships are also being built with local biotech companies—including Jackson Labs and Alexion Pharmaceuticals—to foster field-ready graduates. 

“We needed more space, but we also needed space that was different,” says Christine Broadbridge, director of STEM Initiatives at the university. Jennings Hall, the longtime home for campus science pursuits, was built more than 30 years ago and lacks high-level lab facilities. The university therefore developed more hands-on, research-based engagement with students within a cutting-edge facility designed for specific scientific disciplines.

Solution

The four-story, 103,608-square-foot Academic Science and Laboratory building is split into two wings joined on every floor by a windowed connector. Besides the new research centers and lab spaces, there are two 50-seat classrooms, a high-performance computer lab, conference space and study areas.   

A lit sculpture of a nanotube runs from the nanotechnology center on the ground floor up to an astronomy control lab on the top floor. It connects, symbolically, research on the lowest atomic level to study of the stars. 

There also are two aquaria stocked with local species, a marine touch tank and a rock wall with more than 150 samples of Connecticut geology—all part of the building’s multiple artistic learning displays.

“I think it’s important for people to understand that there’s a lot of beauty in science and engineering, that there’s a lot of creativity associated with it,” says Broadbridge. “I stress that to students because sometimes people are turned
off by science because they think of it as more black and white. This building really demonstrates that relationship well.”

  • COMPLETED: August 2015
  • COST: $49 million
  • PROJECT TEAM: Centerbrook Architects and Planners LLC (Centerbrook), architects; FIP Construction (Farmington), construction manager

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