Lafayette College Rockwell Integrated Sciences Center
Category: Design Excellence
On its Easton, Pennsylvania, campus, Lafayette College’s new Rockwell Integrated Sciences Center sparks and strengthens interdisciplinary connections, a hallmark of its mission. The new LEED Platinum-certified building addresses the college’s need for new facilities to support growing demand for its science programs and anticipated student growth of nearly 20% in the coming years. It provides new departmental homes for biology and computer science, offering those programs teaching and research labs, support spaces and offices, a rooftop greenhouse, and an animal facility.
Located on a tight, triangular site on the edge of the campus core, the center completes a previously unfinished quad and announces itself as an essential academic destination. After more than a decade of weighing its options for a new science building, college leadership selected a site at the back of the campus that had been deemed nearly impossible for such a project because of the constrained footprint and steep slope. These challenges became opportunities that allowed much of the building to remain out of sight while still becoming a destination that has reenergized a neglected area of campus.
“The dynamic yet intimate ribbon form of the atrium/commons creates intriguing visual and physical connections to varied learning spaces, as well as the outdoors and campus beyond.”- Jury comment
Envisioned by the design team as an “inside-out” building, the center revolves around its heart, a vibrant four-story gathering space. From its perch on a hill, the building fosters intimate connections between the college’s science departments within. The greater campus community is engaged through its cascading exterior landscape.
The center takes advantage of the sloping site, with much of its extensive program tucked into the historic brick fabric of a historic courtyard. The team leveraged the site’s topography, with most of its 103,000-square-foot bulk flowing down the steep slope. Its entrance is located on the third of five floors, matching its neighboring buildings in both scale and context.
Inside, the four-story commons features a grand stair that vertically links the center’s academic programs to its community spaces. Those spaces include two landscaped courtyards, a dynamic atrium, and other informal student spaces in varying scales that have made the center a destination for the entire college community.
“The building’s design blends with the existing campus while also creating a dynamic form and an elegant presence; respectful of the traditional architecture but with intricate and unexpected modern detailing and materials, appropriate for 21st-century learning environments,” noted the jury. “The dynamic yet intimate ribbon form of the atrium/commons creates intriguing visual and physical connections to varied learning spaces, as well as the outdoors and campus beyond.”
The center was built at a cost of $630 per square foot, a significant accomplishment considering a rapidly escalating construction market and the challenging conditions of the site.