Project File: Establishing community

The University of Wisconsin — Madison needed to create an environment that would allow for more collaborative, interdisciplinary research and instruction among three academic departments and three graduate training programs, which are scattered throughout campus.

The university's Microbial Sciences Building, scheduled to open in early 2007, is a 336,000-square-foot building that will bring the departments under one roof and house 47 research suites for 500 researchers, 11 instructional laboratories with 360 student stations, a vivarium, a discovery center, administrative office suites, sophisticated classrooms and a 450-seat center for seminars, conferences and symposia.

In this single facility, researchers and students soon will be able to share resources that would be cost-prohibitive for a single department to purchase or build. To promote interaction among scientists, the design team created a two-atrium, six-level scheme combining research neighborhoods and core facilities.

A major design challenge was making the massive, six-story building not only scientifically functional, but also inviting and respectful to the character of the surrounding campus. To diminish the mass, the design uses large breaks in the elevation to create open, inviting spaces that coincide with public entries. A six-story, glass-walled central atrium bathes the interior with light. The building's brick veneer and arcade design complement the adjacent Agriculture Hall.

The architects for this project are Plunkett Raysich Architects (Milwaukee) and CO Architects, formerly Anshen + Allen (Los Angeles), with laboratory consultant Earl Walls Associates (San Diego).

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