KPF Designs New Science Center for University of Minnesota
High above the Mississippi River as it bends around the University of Minnesota’s main campus, a sparkling new glass building, the Science Teaching and Student Services Center (STSSC), is rising. Principal designer, Bill Pedersen, FAIA, of Kohn Pedersen Fox, New York, designed the five-story building not only to capitalize on its scenic site, but also to compliment its neighbor, the Frank Gehry-designed Weisman Art Museum (1993).
Both buildings stand opposite each other on plaza formed by the Washington Avenue pedestrian bridge deck. In contrast to the Weisman’s image of tumbling stainless steel blocks, the 120,000-square-foot STSSC is relatively simple and smooth in form, yet unique in the way its glass curtain wall reflects and refracts light.
On the curving west and south façades, the architects have employed a series of carefully placed vertical stainless steel piers and a vertical strip of windows of fritted blue-green glass to shade the building, rather than a standard sunscreen. The east side features a brick facade that blends with the more traditional campus structures.
Inside, a broad, curving white concrete stairway connects all five floors. Meeting rooms, offices, and public spaces will be filled with light, and parts of the building will offer striking views of the river and downtown Minneapolis.
Construction began in January 2009, and the $70 million building, designed to achieve LEED Gold certification, should be ready for occupancy by the 2010 fall semester.