During a master planning effort in 2012, Steinberg Hart helped Whittier College envision a complete renovation of the 1966 Stauffer Science Building. Every student at Whittier is required to take coursework in the sciences, and the old-fashioned building needed updating to accommodate 21st-century modes of teaching and learning. Four goals were established for the Science and Learning Center: It should serve as a campus hub, showcase science, foster collaboration, and embody a sense of “wow.”
Steinberg Hart’s team proposed seismic and accessibility upgrades, as well as new utility infrastructure and equipment. Following the improvements, the building would be capable of supporting modern science pedagogies, particularly those rooted in technology, collaboration, and interdisciplinary study.
The long, raised-box form of the existing building was re-appropriated to create a more eye-catching exterior and improve the building’s relationship to the campus. Facing the campus quad, a nearly continuous glass facade is interrupted by terra-cotta pop-outs that serve as cross-disciplinary break-out alcoves. These naturally lit spaces provide those inside with views, while inviting pedestrians to come participate in the learning process.
Building-wide transparency activates space that was formerly defined by walls and closed doors. Labs and classrooms, all of which have been reconfigured, feature at least one glass wall, revealing student endeavors to passersby. Open study spaces are strategically located throughout the building, creating the opportunity for students and faculty to have meaningful interactions beyond the classroom.
The sense of “wow” starts on the first level in the airy two-story lobby, where a staircase in the shape of a DNA helix provides a new circulation route up to the campus proper. Capping the building’s transformation, a fifth floor “penthouse” provides inspiring views, unique classroom environments, and dedicated terrace space for the astronomy program’s telescopes.