Volume IV: What works, what matters, what lasts

Jigsaw: Group D

Concept design for the STEM Facility of the Future

"The space is for getting to the I through the oui." This phrase is a play on words of a comment made at another session, namely that spaces "get to the 'I' through the 'WE'.

The "eye" seems to be an appropriate metaphor for the concept described below:

  • The eye is the beholder of beauty; a science building should itself be a beauty to behold while at the same time providing the vehicle to behold beauty.
  • The eye is part of a complex visual system that requires an intact visual pathway with many diverse components in order to create a meaningful image; this concept has many components that are arranged in thoughtful adjacencies in an attempt to create a meaningful science experience.
  • To provide a complete understanding of the world around us, input from the eye must be integrated with input from other sensory systems; this concept is one of functional science clusters and broad links to areas beyond traditional science integrated into a comprehensive concept of science education.

This concept revolves around designing a "oui" or "yes" building. It is an ambitious attempt to bring together the important themes discussed at the meeting in a fashion that honors successful traditions of the past while incorporating modern pedagogical innovations. There is no "can't do" in this concept; it is definitely a "yes" building.

Overall Concept

  • Student population includes grades 11 through 16; this approach is intended to do two things: (1) to provide all students in the high school grades with a comprehensive and holistic introduction to science (versus a departmentally-based structure), and (2) to avoid the problems that sometimes occur when high school students enter college, with respect to different levels of accomplishment, different notions of "advanced placement," redundancies in material covered, etc.
  • The building is organized around a central atrium/social space, providing an explicit community space for building users, and serving as a potential draw for other (non-science) members of the campus community.
  • Teaching and research labs are contained in a series of "clusters," each with a particular area of focus; this organization is intended to allow for linkages between departments, to facilitate the bypass of traditional departmental boundaries, while maintaining intradepartmental affinities where appropriate; the goal is to create a "both-and" approach, allowing for the creation of new linkages, while maintaining traditional departmental groupings where necessary.
  • The building contains spaces for a wide variety of programs and activities not traditionally associated with undergraduate science teaching, including links to non-science academic programs, local industry, local biomedical institutions, K-12 teacher training, and to science programs across the globe.
  • The clusters might be arranged in the building like a circular stairway, with each adjacent cluster on a slightly higher level.

Overall Plan Concept Diagram

Response to Focus Areas: Science, Community, Technology and Sustainability


  • The cluster design concept provides for building organization based on area of focus, not necessarily by departmental boundaries; this allows/promotes interdisciplinary group affiliations where they occur naturally, while maintaining the ability to organize space departmentally, where appropriate.


  • The central social space/atrium links all building occupants.
  • The range of grades links the high school and college experience.
  • The cluster design allows for connections between and among departments.
  • Programs and spaces in the building provide links to: non-science components of the campus, local industry, local biomedical institutions, K-12 teacher training, and global STEM initiatives.


  • The atrium space has a large-scale Imax projection/display system, for specific meetings as well as for general display of activities within the building.
  • All teaching spaces have plasma screens; some special rooms have multiple plasma screens.
  • Each cluster has an interactive display directed at the "public" that explains the activities going on within the building.
  • The building has wireless technology throughout.


  • The building employs a hybrid mechanical design that uses a combination of natural and mechanical ventilation.
  • The building has a high performance building envelope system (exterior walls and roof).
  • The building utilizes fuel cells as part of its energy system.
  • Remotely located windmills provide electrical energy to the building.

Cluster Design Concept

  • The teaching, research and office space in the building is organized into multiple clusters.
  • Each cluster provides a common array of mechanical-electrical services, in order to accommodate any science; these services are provided overhead, allowing great flexibility in layout.
  • Clusters have defined boundaries, but are completely flexible within - walls are movable, and can be located to suit the science and the desired interrelationship of spaces and functions.
  • Each cluster is intended to contain teaching labs, research labs, equipment space, faculty offices, student desk areas, and social space - the social space is intended to create a "neighborhood" gathering area, that also connects to the building-wide social space.
  • Each cluster houses a different area of focus, not necessarily bounded by department - for instance, one cluster may be dedicated to parts of the physics department, while another might be dedicated to neuroscience, with components of the biology, psychology and chemistry departments located there.
  • At a more detailed level of mechanical design, each cluster will include zones of greater and lesser mechanical services to accommodate particularly system-intensive equipment such as fume hoods, clean rooms, etc.

Cluster Concept

Building Service Concept

Cluster Areas of Focus

Cluster areas of focus will include a variety of departmental, inter-departmental, and intra-departmental subject matters. These might include:

  • Introductory science courses - the culture of science for grades 11-12
  • K-12 teacher training
  • Special courses for non-science majors
  • Special programs for linkages to non-science students, such as ethics and policy issues
  • Special programs for linkages between academia and local industry
  • Special programs for linkages between academia and local biomedical institutions
  • Special programs to develop global linkages among various scientific communities, including interactive/videoconferencing activities
  • Flexible "project areas" - mostly open spaces that might be used for special workshops and special projects, etc.

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