Holabird & Root Designed the Science Center for North Central College

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      Three factors had a strong influence on the final design of the building.

      • The site was on the central campus but also fronted a historic residential neighborhood.  The building needed to respond to both the campus and the neighborhood.
      • With the assembly of all of the STEM disciplines into a single facility it was important to create a sense of community that would draw these disciplines together.
      • The individual teaching and research spaces needed to foster a new pedagogy that supported active, hands-on learning.


      Responding to the surrounding Residential Neighborhood:  When North Central College in Naperville, Illinois decided to replace its 70’s era building with a new state-of-the-art science facility it required both a larger site and a taller volume.  While the new volume fell within the established zoning requirements, the neighboring residents raised concerns about its size and impact on their community.  Holabird & Root met several times with the Neighborhood group over the development of the projects to address their concerns.  These discussions strongly influenced the ultimate design of the new facility.  Developments to the design included, organizing all of the quieter faculty offices along the façade of the building that faced the residential neighborhood while orienting the more active communal spaces were toward the campus.  The roof-top MEP equipment was housed in the penthouse to shield it both visually and audibly from the residents, and the height of the penthouse sloped down toward the residences to reduce its scale and impact on the neighborhood.




      Making Science Visible and Communal: When the College decided to combine all of the STEM disciplines of North Central College into a single, new facility, it was an opportunity to rethink how the various disciplines could form a stronger relationship with one another.  While the new facility is over twice the size of its predecessor and includes a larger number of departments, it was critical to create a stronger sense of community that drew the disciplines together.  This desire was guided by two underlying goals.  First, it was important to make the excitement of scientific inquiry more visible, allowing individuals walking by or through the new facility to be able to see students at work in both the public spaces and in the laboratories.  To this end, view windows provide a visual connection between the laboratories and public corridors.  Second, an interdisciplinary community needed to be created where students and faculty could meet informally away from the more structured classroom/laboratory setting.  This resulted in projecting glass-enclosed bays of informal group study areas along the west façade overlooking the primary pedestrian path through campus.  In order control the heat gain and glare created by the low west sun, dynamic glass was used in these projecting bays.  This product uses electrochromic glass to enable the occupants to adjust the tint and shading coefficient of the glass for their individual comfort.




      Creating Classroom and Laboratory spaces that support active hands-on Learning: The creation of a new facility for the STEM disciplines of North Central College allowed the faculty to rethink how students learn and what kinds of spaces best support that learning process.  Auditoriums and classrooms were not only designed to support lectures and demonstrations but were planned to allow the class to break into smaller groups to discuss or work through a problem before reconvening as a class and discussing the results.  This process actively engages students in learning.  Instructional laboratories also serve a range of functions in order to support hands-on learning.  They function as general classrooms with good visibility and technical support.  They also provide bench space and lab services that allow students to engage in small group or individual inquiry.  Finally, they are flexible and adaptable to new technology.  To this end an accessible shaft runs through the center of the facility, adjacent to the teaching and research labs, enabling incremental changes and additions to the building systems over time.