Bowie State University, Center of Natural Science, Mathematics and Nursing
“Arise, Advance, Amplify” was the call for this new STEM focused project in the center of the campus at Bowie State University (BSU). The project aspires to attract and retain top teaching and research talent, inspire students to take an interest in the represented Nursing, Sciences and Mathematics programs, and to advance BSU as an institution, benefitting the community and society at large. The Nursing, Natural Sciences, and Mathematics programs were in aged facilities across the campus. The Center for Natural Sciences, Mathematics and Nursing (CNSM) would directly serve the named departments, but by virtue core science and math education requirements for all students, it would serve the entire university. This juxtaposition of programs and students in a single location resulted in an opportunity to highlight to students more advanced programs in these departments.
21 hands on team based instructional labs, 7 state of the art active learning classrooms, 3 complete nursing simulation suites provide the stage for unique opportunities for undergraduate research, and connections with industry partners. An architectural openness supports cross discipline connections. Informal collaboration spaces, branded showcase moments, and views into transparent learning spaces are designed to engage and inspire through visible demonstration and storytelling.
Design ChallengeThe design team challenge was to inspire student curiosity and be a beacon for the visiting public. This goals were met by creating a place that puts the science programs visually forward and a design that is formally unique. With no predominant style prescribed on the campus but an underlying tone of brick in both colonial and contemporary collegiate architecture the building was both designed to blend into the texture and of the campus but also be clear in intention as a wayfinding moment. The two program bars punctuated by the oval multipurpose space are consistent with the overall scale of the campus but the unique and iconic form is designed to draw the visitor in. From exterior to interior the science is an active visual key to the composition. The greenhouse is placed on the top floor of the south east corner in dialog with the student center and a major campus entry approach. The challenging north south dominant orientation of the building required a specific response to solar loads in the form of dynamic glazing, which activates the façade throughout the day in response to changing daylight and direct solar beam. The drought tolerant landscape water features activate during rainy conditions demonstrating the drainage path to a newly developed landscape open space designed to mitigate site water flow.
Within the building a central circulation atrium aspired to be the “nicest spot on campus”. With filtered natural light throughout the day and a variety of flexible seating groupings, the space is a honeypot inviting students to linger, perhaps not recognizing the Fibonacci sequence inspired floor pattern until they climb the monumental stair. Classrooms and laboratories line the east and west walls; their glazing pattern developed with colored picture framed moments that ask the viewer to stop and focus their gaze on the activity in the classrooms and laboratories.
Physical ContextThe University’s decision to occupy the center of the campus with the STEM building was intentional. Neighbored by the library, the Student Union building, residence halls, and the main campus quadrangle it is sited in a major circulation path for students studying in all programs. The entrances are placed to encourage the building’s use as an alternate pathway, bringing students in to “see what’s going on”. The buffering landscape provides outdoor informal gathering and teaching spaces within a planting design, reminiscent of the surrounding Patuxent environment, that requires low maintenance and with drainage pathways that activate during weather events and carry building rain water to the reclaimed site of the old science building designed as a multipurpose lawn and partial wetland area.
Scale materiality and detailing were considerate of the mélange of existing architectural languages, which are all developed around the use of masonry. The terracotta rain screen continues that heritage while emphasizing a contemporary building technology appropriate to the science based programs.