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Drake Univ. Opens Science Connector Building

Looking to the future, Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa has resolved to continue its strength in the sciences through focused investments in its physical facilities.  The reconfiguration and renovation of existing space and the addition of new space for the sciences will serve to establish and promote new interdisciplinary programs and research efforts, while enhancing opportunities for collaboration between existing programs.

The new, Holabird & Root-designed Science Connector Building (SCB) is the key component to realizing this goal.  The SCB will serve as an interdisciplinary hub for the sciences, physically connecting to Fitch and Olin Halls and linking a network of five buildings.  This will allow internal access for the entire science complex.  Later phases include the renovation of Olin Hall, which houses the Biology Department.

Drake University has a unique architectural legacy with buildings by noted modernist architects Eero Saarinen and Mies Van der Rohe.  Two of the science complex buildings are by Saarinen with one of them, Fitch Hall, connecting directly to the SCB.  Numerous planning studies were developed in order to determine an appropriate design solution that worked harmoniously with the smaller Fitch Hall.

Building Organization

The SCB is organized into 4 levels with a 100 level north/south axis joining the external campus entrances and east/west axis internally linking the science buildings on the upper levels.  The primary circulation spine will be on the 200 level, which links all 5 buildings of the complex.  This path was conceived as a unifying street animated by numerous and varying sized informal student spaces.  In the SCB, these include glass enclosed “zip” spaces, conference rooms, and open informal gathering spaces.  Each level has a large flexible classroom fitted out with sophisticated classroom technology.


Teaching and research clusters foster interdisciplinary science

Working with faculty from all departments, four “clusters” of interdisciplinary inquiry were identified supporting future growth and enhanced collaboration within the sciences at Drake.

The Molecular Sciences Cluster incorporates work in Biology, Chemistry, Physics, and Pharmacy.  Centered on two advanced teaching laboratories, the cluster will join experts from each discipline in an integrated node with six faculty research labs and offices.

The Neuroscience Cluster brings together faculty and researchers in Biology, Pharmacy, and Psychology.  With a comprehensive animal facility at its center, the cluster centralizes all animal related work, providing teaching, research, and office space for faculty from the participating departments.

The Human Performance Cluster combines work being done in Biology, Health Sciences, and Psychology.  Here, human physiology, exercise science, kinesiology, and human behavioral studies overlap in a suite of teaching and research labs, and faculty office space.

The Environmental Science Cluster joins work being done in Biology and Chemistry and is anchored by a rooftop greenhouse, botany research lab, and the Biodiversity Center.


Core Facilities

Another goal of the SCB was to consolidate core facilities currently scattered throughout the campus.  These include a vivarium, greenhouse, BSL2 lab, and instrument lab.

The vivarium includes 10 animal holding rooms, testing rooms, surgical room, cage wash facility, and other supporting functions.  It is set up to provide an isolated secure connection to Olin Hall in order to support animal related research programs in Biology.
A 2,100 SF greenhouse with 3 cells and head-house is located on the roof.  Clustered with the greenhouse is a botany research lab and the Biodiversity Center.  A roof deck with telescope mounts supports the Physic department’s astronomy program.
At the heart of the Neuroscience Cluster is an instrument and prep lab.  It supports both teaching and research labs and includes access to a tissue culture and BSL2 lab.


Moving In

The SCB has just finished the construction phase.  The University's students and faculty are excited about their move into their new spaces.   Over the course of the multi-year planning and construction process, differing co-location strategies were explored for the faculty’s teaching, research, and office needs.  Now that they have moved in, it’s been interesting to see how the flexibility of the design is allowing faculty to choose to locate in areas not originally planned.  We look forward to following up with a in depth post occupancy study to determine how effective the new SCB is in supporting a collaborative culture of interdisciplinary teaching and research.


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