This is a project by Spillman Farmer Architects and it is located at Bryn Athyn, PA, United States. Project's program: Research centre. There are twenty three images for Doering Center for Science & Research, Bryn Athyn College.
Understanding project goals:
Bryn Athyn College is a unique institution established to offer a program of higher education in the liberal arts and grounded in the teachings of the New Church (also called the General Church of the New Jerusalem). The College’s 30-year goal is to become known and respected throughout the world for integrating spiritual life, academic discovery, and practical application. A key milestone is the creation of a new science building, one that would feature state of the art laboratory facilities, gallery and display areas, classrooms, faculty offices, meeting rooms, and space for student engagement – where students and faculty could come together outside of class to discuss the natural and spiritual worlds.
The building’s architecture was to embody these principles, offering the physical spaces that would support state-of-the-art laboratories and classrooms and, at the same time, offer a distinct spirit of place fitting the larger spiritual and architectural context of Bryn Athyn College and the New Church. The Trustees expected that the architecture would harmonize and continue the underlying architectural strengths of Bryn Athyn Cathedral, Bryn Athyn College, and other nearby historic structures. There was also a concern that the building relate to its site and embody sustainable principles, with the goal of achieving LEED certification once complete. Practical details were not to be overlooked, including the functionality of the building for faculty, students, and staff.
Translating goals into concepts:
The design was developed through a consensus-building planning process facilitated by the architectural firm’s design team involving the staff, administrators, and key trustees and benefactors.
The design team began the process by considering the campus as a whole. At Bryn Athyn, the architects worked closely with the College to establish a set of design standards for campus development. These standards drew from the spiritual and architectural history of the campus. Although each building is distinct in its architectural style, ranging from Beaux Arts to Gothic Revival at the Cathedral, together they share a commitment to good design, care in craftsmanship, quality and integrity of materials, and an understanding of the importance of human scale in relationship to the building’s structure and purpose. The architectural team design articulated, documented, and shared these design principles through a brief graphic booklet provided to the college’s staff, administrators, and building committee.
The team then organized the program and space requirements into a cohesive architectural idea. For the Doering Center, the key ideas included scientific exploration in a community context and the idea of engagement among the faculty and students within the building as well as, in a larger sense, engagement of the building with its architectural neighbors on campus. Architectural concepts, such as the large public atrium around which laboratories and classrooms were arranged, and transparency inside and out, were explored through a series of rough conceptual sketches. During this process, the architects also drew inspiration from the natural world in the form of the geode, a rock formation characterized by a rough stone exterior and crystalline interior. This geologic form remained as a literal and figurative touchstone for the architects as design progressed.
Once the broad ideas of the design were articulated, the design team then began to consider volumes of spaces and massing with respect to the overall campus scale and building’s location. Opportunities for flexibility and expandability were also incorporated at this stage of design. Concepts moved from rough sketches to more formal, computerized format (SketchUp) to allow for a more strict delineation of space and line.
The team then worked to refine the early concepts through a series of conceptual studies – interior and exterior – to allow the Building Committee to evaluate the facility. As the conceptual design was finalized, a formal watercolor sketch suitable for fundraising and marketing purposes was created for Bryn Athyn College.
The built project:
Now constructed, the Doering Center is carefully sited in an axial relationship with the new student center (also designed by the architect) with visual connectivity to the Cathedral. Exterior masonry and glass façade respect the proportions and scale of the existing campus buildings while the stone and brick details draw from the rich architectural history of the college and also the architectural vernacular of the early 20th Century Philadelphia suburbs in which the campus is located. In fact, the stone used in the building was sourced from the same regional quarry as the stone used in the Cathedral.
The building’s floorplan is organized in a “U” shape with east and west wings wrapping around and enclosing a courtyard and entry plaza on the north side. The east, south, and west facades are composed of rubble stone with brick detailing. The north side, embraced by the east and west wings, is a glass curtain wall that draws one into the building with dynamic views of the activities within. The effect is that of a geode cracked open to reveal the sparkling interior within.
The glazed wall is punctuated by a slate-clad vestibule, a transition point between outside and inside. The slate used here echoes the slate used on the roof and which is then in turn echoed by the slate used on the first floor of the building. At the vestibule, the irregular coursing of the stone evokes the stonework of Bryn Athyn Cathedral. The slate rain screen is attached using a mortarless spring and clip system, an economical technique that demonstrates how a traditional building material such as slate can be used in a contemporary application. This system is exposed and expressed (as are many others in the building including the elevator mechanics and plumbing valves and piping) a design decision that allows one to see how the building is made and functions. The strategy has the added benefit of providing easy access for maintenance staff and reducing operational costs.
After passing through the vestibule one enters a three-story atrium that is the heart of the Center. Here, the transparency that one experiences from outside continues inside, reversing the common interior/exterior connection exploited with transparent strategies. The atrium and central vertical stair, with their transparent glazing, physically and visually connect all three floors of the building. The atrium and stair are solid and shimmering – dynamically reflecting light and activity as the sun and students move through the space. The interior wood finishes add warmth, an effect that becomes particularly apparent at night when the building is illuminated from within.
The glass walls of the atrium provide views into the offices, classrooms, and laboratories. These program spaces are thoughtfully organized along a single-loaded hallway so that occupants have direct views not only into the daylight filled atrium but also through it to the natural world beyond the building’s walls. Even the placing of the chemical prep rooms, a difficult program element due to the functional nature of the space, is transformed into an opportunity by being strategically located between two labs. When privacy or darkness as opposed to transparency is desired, cherry wood-clad whiteboards can slide over the glass, a functional element that makes for a dynamic, ever-changing view inside and out.