Breaking up Silos
Transformation of a once-introverted science complex




502,000 GSF

558,000 GSF



Brandeis University
Carl J. Shapiro Science Center

Waltham, MA / United States

2009 Phase 1

155,000 GSF New
40,000 GSF Renovation

Biochemistry, Biology, Chemistry, Genomics, Physics, NMR, Teaching Labs

The Shapiro Science Center is the result of a comprehensive Master Plan process focused on the renewal of a Sputnik era science precinct that was completely removed from campus life. The objective was to create a renewed Science Complex to support an agile, entrepreneurial faculty, facilitate interdisciplinary theme-based research, promote the intellectual “collisions” of an energetic student body, provide an infrastructure to support modern scientific research, and advance the value of science to the broader community.

The new Shapiro Science Center was the catalyst that enabled science at Brandeis to shift from traditional departmental silos into one of interdisciplinary theme-based research. The transformation fosters collaboration and a sharing of core research elements throughout the science complex.

The building is organized with two floors of teaching labs on the lower two levels and three floors of research on the upper levels. Behavioral Genomics occupies two of the research floors and is connected by a two-story lounge at the center of the building. Chemistry Research is located on the top floor closest to the mechanical penthouse, but also horizontally connected to two other buildings containing chemistry via the atrium.

Connections play a significant role in the transformation of the sciences, with new pedestrian bridges and breakout spaces located between multiple buildings at multiple levels. The complement of new and renovated spaces function as a catalyst for scientific innovation, interdisciplinary discourse and a renewed vibrancy of student and faculty activity. A new pedestrian “river” organizes lobbies, multi-story spaces, bridges interconnecting new and existing buildings, and allows cross campus pedestrian movement through the Shapiro Science Center.

The implementation of the project was complex: new construction was syncopated with demolition and rehabilitation in a systematic and resolved manner. Double-moves were minimized to achieve a desired end-state with minimal disruption to ongoing activities. This approach was based on the integrated, yet complementary effect of implementing large-scale enhancements while maintaining the many individual personalities of the complex. Over six departments, twelve research groups, dozens of teaching faculty, and countless ancillary support spaces are impacted, improved, relocated, or re-tooled as a product of this ambitious project.

The new structure is a transparent, angular design in dialogue with the sloping landscape. Ground level teaching spaces engage a series of terraced, outdoor landscapes with views to campus and beyond. The upper levels are fully transparent – a symbolic transformation of the once introverted science complex.

Photography: © Warren Jagger Photography; © Payette, Images by Rachellynn Schoen

George E. Marsh, Jr., FAIA

Kevin B. Sullivan, FAIA
Design Principal

Robert C. Pasersky, AIA
Project Manager

Wesley Schwartz, AIA
Project Architect