Shepley Bulfinch Completes Interdisciplinary Science Center at Davidson College

(Photo credit: © Anton Grassl Architectural Photography)

BOSTON – Shepley Bulfinch announced the completion of the E. Craig Wall Jr. Academic Center (Wall Center) at Davidson College, a private liberal arts college with nearly 2,000 students in Davidson, North Carolina.

The new Wall Center, and renovation of the adjoining Martin Chemistry Laboratory building, together comprise nearly 164,500 SF for collaborative teaching and research labs, faculty offices, and collaboration spaces, while providing campus amenities for the entire Davidson community.

Named for E. Craig Wall, Jr., Class of ’59, who served on Davidson’s Board of Trustees for more than 21 years, and made possible by a $45 million grant from The Duke Endowment, the Wall Center creates an environment of learning and discovery that exposes students to the diversity of science and inspires interdisciplinary research initiatives addressing real world problems.

In 2010, Shepley Bulfinch was engaged to create a 10-year master plan for the Davidson campus based on a vision of interdisciplinary learning that breaks down traditional academic silos and fosters emerging disciplines in the sciences. The Wall Center site identified by Shepley Bulfinch, which incorporates the existing Martin Chemistry Laboratory, strategically places science at the heart of the academic campus. Mindful of its role in the town at large, Davidson also placed importance on creating a welcoming atmosphere for the surrounding community.

(Photo credit: © Anton Grassl Architectural Photography)

“Shepley Bulfinch’s thoughtful design is already promoting new connections, innovative thinking and cross-pollination of ideas, fulfilling our vision for an interdisciplinary learning environment,” said Carol Quillen, president at Davidson College. “The spaces are actively engaging students in learning and opening their minds to endless possibilities. Faculty and staff, too, are interacting in new ways, thanks to the decentralized design that facilitates interactions that may not otherwise have taken place. We were deeply appreciative of how tirelessly Shepley Bulfinch worked with faculty and staff, whose input during the design process was critical to a successful outcome.”

Totaling 135,300 SF in two wings and joined to the Martin Building by a central atrium space, the new Wall Center features teaching and learning labs as well as spaces for collaboration, presentation and colloquia in a dynamic academic forum. Careful consideration was given to the design and scale of the Wall Center to fit what is now the largest building on campus comfortably within the campus fabric. The addition reinterprets tradition using a palette of brick and limestone, while the atrium creates a new and dynamic campus hub through a contemporary expression of metal and glass. The new construction navigates a change in terrain from the main campus quad down to a lower courtyard level with reflecting pool, and a new street entrance. Interior public space and exterior landscaped spaces flow seamlessly, enhancing campus connectivity and bringing the outside in.

(Photo credit: © Anton Grassl Architectural Photography)

A large glass façade facing the quad exposes an inviting four-story atrium, located where the Martin Building and the Wall Center intersect. Serving as the point of entry for the complex, the atrium features a stepped 120-seat forum at its heart, providing space for open study, exhibits, and presentations for use by the broader academic community. A large flat screen video wall and state-of-the-art audiovisual technology allow the forum to be readily transformed to accommodate lectures and large events. Offering amphitheater-style seating where students, faculty and staff can work or relax, this deliberately designed nexus promotes chance encounters, collisions of ideas, and social interactions. Students from both arts and sciences are drawn to the Wall Center’s large, open spaces, coveted study nooks, and a living wall where the soothing sound of trickling water helps ease the stresses of the day.

The Wall Center’s informal collaboration and gathering spaces are infused throughout the complex, creating academic neighborhoods around which research, seminar, and group study spaces are clustered to promote new synergies. Labs and classrooms are located along the exterior with support spaces in the center, while glass doors and windows allow students to see science in action. This inspiring layout is bolstered by additional points of interaction embedded in the lab and faculty suites, encouraging further engagement. Flexible, department-neutral spaces are designed to be easily reconfigured as the demands of disciplines change. The renovation of the Martin Chemistry Laboratory building marks the final phase of the project and consolidates faculty offices from several science departments into a more collaborative environment designed to encourage interaction across disciplines.

Completed with minimal disruption to occupied spaces during the construction process, this ambitious project delivers maximum impact. Since opening, the Wall Center has been a hub of activity. The south end of the campus has been re-energized with students and faculty engaged in learning and socializing well into the evening. The new Wall Center defines and shapes the Davidson campus, embracing not only the Martin Building and the campus quad, but also acting as a gateway to the larger community.

Driven by Davidson College’s commitment to sustainability, the project design is anticipated to receive LEED Gold certification by the USGBC. Green features include the living wall in the atrium space, maximum access to natural light and exterior views from interior spaces, daylighting and lighting controls, a rainwater re-circulation system located under the courtyard, and energy efficient building systems.

The project team includes:

  • Design Architect: Shepley Bulfinch
  • General Contractor/Construction Manager: Rodgers Builders
  • Structural Engineer: Simpson Gumpertz & Heger (SGH)
  • Mechanical/Electrical/Plumbing/Fire Protection/Telecom/Security: R. G. Vanderweil Engineers
  • Civil Engineer: Calyx Engineers
  • Landscape: Surface 678
  • Code: Jensen Hughes
  • Energy/Sustainability/LEED: Thornton Tomasetti
  • Lighting: Lewis Lighting Design.