Christchurch Science Building, presented to the VSBN, Richmond, VA, 2011

The planning process engaged all stakeholders, from the science faculty and the administration, to the building and finance committees. This was a highly collaborative exercise of obtaining feed-back from all and distilling this information to assess the essentials meeting the Owner’s criteria for the building.

One of the first steps during programming was to understand the educational mission of the science department within the larger picture of the school’s educational philosophy. Having the benefit of being involved in the overall campus master plan, BCWH was familiar with the school’s needs and goals for the future and therefore able to view the science building from a broad vantage point. The campus present and future connections to the science building were studied from the perspective of the educational needs and objectives. It was agreed during programming that the visual as well as functional connections to the river should be an essential feature of the design. The building was conceived as a series of interconnecting science-related experiences that revolved around a common, multipurpose space overlooking the river and hosting anything from science fairs and lectures to community events. As a programming condition, each of the labs had a visual connection to the commons and therefore an extended view of the hillside/river area. Outdoor classroom set ups are readily available on the patio extending the commons into the hill side overlooking the river. The building and lab layouts emphasize collaboration and a permanent connection to the outdoors, and create a direct link to the marine and environmental science curricula connected to the river.

The new labs are equipped with cabinet storage and the latest in instructional technology. Chemistry and biology labs accommodate separate seating arrangements for lab and lecture while physics and marine/environmental science labs allow flexible seating arrangements for changing functions. The labs have been designed to facilitate collaborative activities in both teaching and learning, and storage and support spaces have been created to supplement teaching needs for laboratories and classrooms. For example, the teacher workroom provides collaborative space for the teachers at a location that allows them to oversee the commons space and restroom access.

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