Campus Living Room
A transparent common zone promotes connection and interaction

pavilions in the landscape       science commons                                lab bar

CONTEXT
The New Science Center defines the east side of the greenway. The unifying canopy, set against the quiet Pelham Hills, unites a vibrant science community below.

commons
The commons, transparent and welcoming to the campus, links the sciences to the larger campus community.

A new campus “living room” is the social centerpiece, which is balanced by a science library and a café. A more intimate sunken garden provides respite for quiet study and introspection.  

Amherst College
New Science Center

LOCATION
Amherst, MA / United States

TOTAL SQUARE FOOTAGE
230,000 GSF

PROGRAM COMPONENTS
Undergraduate Sciences (Biology, Chemistry, Computer Science, Physics and Astronomy, Psychology (and Neuroscience), Library and QCenter, (limited amount of) Math and Statistics). Research and Teaching Laboratories, Classrooms and Lecture Rooms, Vivarium, Science Shops, Offices, Greenhouse.

Faced with an aging science center unable to accommodate today’s technologies, equipment and pedagogies, Amherst College was in need of a new, forward-looking building that would create an open and accessible learning environment for the entire campus community.

Challenge
The New Science Center needed to support Amherst’s science programs and students for the next 100 years. In addition, the building had to promote interaction among the school’s science departments and between the sciences and the campus at large.

Solution
Conceived as an integral part of the landscape, the New Science Center is organized into five building elements: two high energy laboratory wings tucked into the hillside to the east, and three pavilions of low intensity program extending west toward campus. These five elements open onto a transparent, glass-enclosed Commons, which serves as a gathering space and point of connection for the community. A new campus “living room” is the social centerpiece, which is balanced by a science library and a café. A more intimate sunken garden provides respite for quiet study and introspection. 

From overall organization to detailing, the design promotes transparency and interaction. The research laboratories and teaching laboratories are structured to support both subject-based foundational learning and interdisciplinary exploration. Classrooms adapted to new pedagogies and active learning serve students from across the campus. The inclusion of innovative student community spaces at various scales throughout the building strengthens the close student-to-student and student-to-faculty relationships that are the hallmark of Amherst’s science education.

Sustainable Strategies
The New Science Center’s total energy savings are far greater than the sum of its inventive parts. With a projected energy use intensity (EUI) budget of 92 kBtu/SF/yr, it will far surpass its national benchmark peers, who report an EUI budget of 370 kBtu/SF/yr. The energy savings stem from a number of sustainable strategies including the Commons atrium’s custom triple-glazed curtainwall and the use of radiant heating and cooling, natural ventilation and ventilation heat recovery, a PV array and balanced light control. These approaches combine with others to create a campus building that efficiently performs around the clock, year round.

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

Sara S. Gewurz, AIA, LEED AP
Project Manager

Michael Hinchcliffe, AIA, LEED AP
Project Architect