Turbo-Charging a Classic
A new addition rejuvenates an historic building


Connecticut College
New London Hall Life Science Building

New London, CT / United States


14,600 GSF Addition
29,300 GSF Renovated

Biology, Botany, Computer Science, Research Labs, Teaching Labs, Classrooms, Greenhouse

LEED-NC 3 Gold Certified

It is becoming increasingly important to find new uses for older buildings rather than turning to demolition in favor of new construction; less common is keeping historic buildings for high tech science programs. The four story granite, Collegiate Gothic New London Hall was Connecticut College’s first building, built in 1914. Though the building was long the home of biology and botany, the teaching and research labs had descended into disrepair and dysfunction. This project was initially envisioned by the client as a new 50,000 GSF building located in a different part of the campus. However, the design team determined an addition/renovation would meet the needs of the client’s science program while preserving and revitalizing the existing historic building.

The renewal of historic New London Hall represents a highly responsible alternative to new construction, utilizing a robust granite structure in the heart of the campus and preserving open space. A high performance addition houses the primary building systems allowing the addition to elegantly back feed modern science programs throughout the building, while creating a rejuvenated culture of science teaching and research. The more modestly sized program spaces are fit into the existing structure’s load-bearing walls while the addition houses the larger lab/teaching spaces required by today’s biology/botany programs.

Programmatic efficiencies were created to fit the departments into the proposed budget and area. Foremost was the introduction of open research laboratories that are shared by faculty with related areas of inquiry. The multi-purpose teaching and research labs provide synergies for the biology, botany and computer science departments. As opposed to the formerly isolated and inefficient labs, the new open labs create vibrant research environments where new collaborations and ideas occur regularly.

Support labs and classrooms are also shared among the faculty. Classrooms, seminar rooms and social spaces enhance collaboration and interdepartmental interaction aligning with the goals of this liberal arts college. Maintaining the biology/botany departments adjacent to Olin and Hale Halls, which house the other science departments, allows efficient sharing of teaching laboratories and classrooms enabling Connecticut College to build less new space. A new communicating stair creates a pivot point in the simple circulation that establishes a cohesive intimate feel.

Modern Materiality
The form and proportions of the addition emulate the historic building with a distinctly modern envelope, reflecting a formal looking spirit. An exciting contrast between the high performance terracotta rainscreen of the addition and the robust granite exterior of New London Hall showcases the unique role of science at this renowned college. The glazed connector, or “link,” between new and old intersect a key campus path encouraging non science students to interact with the science programs and has become the most popular study space at the college.

Photography: © Warren Jagger Photography; © Paul Burk Photography

Robert J. Schaeffner, FAIA, LEED AP