Cascading Science Center
Transforming a Pivotal Campus Precinct

The Science Center is transformative to the campus. Prior to the construction of the project, the primary path from the south dormitories to the student center was along a road which was also a major vehicular path. The Science Center provides an alternative indoor north-south path through a series of grand stairways along its west side. The formerly flat site has been transformed into a sloping lawn and terraced buildings that accommodate the flow of people between the southwest quad and the student center and north campus. Cascading exterior stairs on either side of the courtyard connect to the upper campus. Gardens in the space relate directly to the biology curriculum. The upper tier of the space is a plaza for the student center. Underneath the upper courtyard is the loading dock which is accessed from the west, eliminating the pedestrian-vehicular conflicts. The design of the building overlays major campus paths providing connections at four different floor levels.

Before

After

EXPLODED AXONOMETRIC DIAGRAM

Georgetown University
Regents Hall Science Center

LOCATION
Washington, DC / United States

COMPLETED
2012

TOTAL SQUARE FOOTAGE
154,000 GSF

PROGRAM COMPONENTS
Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Research Labs, Teaching Labs

LEED STATUS
LEED-NC 2.2 Gold Registered

Challenge
Tucked behind the main campus space and in the foreground of a parking garage, the site was missing any sense of belonging to the academic campus. The existing science facility in a 1960s era neighboring building had reached the end of its useful life and offered no space for the University’s expanding faculty, creating a barrier to 21st century research and teaching.

Solution
The Regents Hall Science Center completes a new academic precinct that integrates with and extends the fabric of the historic main campus. A vital link between student life facilities to the south and the campus center is created within the new science center’s three story grand stairway/concourse.

A major programming goal of the project was to group researchers by scientific interest as well as discipline. Two levels of program are tucked against the parking garage and buried into a newly created sloping quadrangle between the School of Business and the new science center. Biology teaching labs, a study concourse and trellised bio-gardens sit atop the sloping quad, while themselves supporting a landscaped terraced serving the campus center above. The resulting sloped open space and terraces bring a new sense of order and “place” to this formerly neglected site.

The new science center is a modern building that celebrates its purpose as a state-of-the-art science building while reflecting the spirit of the campus’s Collegiate Gothic heritage. The building is broken into two primary components; a simple gabled form which defines the research laboratory spaces, an articulated glass that houses faculty, offices and conference rooms. Transparent glass between and below these forms define the public circulation. 

Regents Hall not only provided Georgetown with state-of-the-art teaching and research space, but also transforms a pivotal precinct of the campus, repairing a significant gap with a vital academic center. The paths through the building expose the entire student body to the sciences, welcoming all to pass through and stop to work, study and meet. Science is put on display as key and integral to a modern liberal arts education.

Sustainability Strategies
Academic science buildings are among the most prolific energy users on college campuses. Georgetown sought to put science on display in a building which embodies commitment to both the sciences and the environment. The building is the first LEED Gold Certified project on the campus and aggressively reduced energy usage by maximizing heat recovery, lowering air change rates, using hydronic based cooling and limiting solar gain through the use of exterior sunshading. The building also features stormwater recovery and a graywater system to reduce water usage. The building interiors showcase bamboo casework and rubber floors.

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Photography: © Robert Benson Photography

KEY TEAM MEMBERS
Robert J. Schaeffner, FAIA, LEED AP
Principal-in-Charge