In Pullman, a small city in far southeastern Washington, the newest addition on the campus of Washington State University (WSU), the high-tech Plant Sciences Building, opened today. The school’s new science-dedicated building is the latest on-campus facility designed by Seattle-based LMN Architects, which drew up a master plan in 2005 for the public research university’s continued expansion.
“The new Plant Sciences Building marks a significant milestone in Washington State’s commitment to sustainable agriculture and ecological stewardship,” said LMN partner Stephen Van Dyck, AIA, in a press release. “As a central element of the Research and Education Complex, the new building provides state-of-the-art research facilities that are interconnected to the culture of research on the Washington State University campus. As a central node of the interdisciplinary complex, the building is designed to nurture collaborative innovation in this critical sector.”
Both the massing and design language employed by LMN marks the science building as contemporary and high-tech while referencing the existing campus. The soaring, two-story cantilevered section above the building’s western entrance, bookended with steel panels and a glass curtain wall, immediately reads as new, while the prefabricated concrete facade is clad in a thin veneer of alternating, rotating, and variegated red brick. Each brick-clad panel contains insulation, a weather barrier, and interior finishes, and combined with a design-build approach, allowed LMN to cut down on construction time. The 84-foot-tall, 82,437-square-foot complex was completed in only two years.
LMN optimized the interior of the five-story Plant Sciences Building for flexibility and took a no-frills approach to putting science front and center. The concrete slabs were kept exposed for the building’s flooring and ceiling, apart from drop-down areas to denote classrooms, labs, and public areas. A four-story central staircase begins at the ground level and runs up throughout, while communal gathering spaces anchor each floor and connects to what LMN described as the “central spine.”
As the new building will serve students and researchers from across WSU’s College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences, labs were designed as modular instances that can be rearranged over time to better fit the school’s needs. To the north of the labs, LMN installed offices for Principal Investigators and work areas for the graduate students they’re assisting-slash-mentoring. To the south, the team installed “modular support spaces” stocked with specialized equipment, a kind of scientific makers’ space. Overall, the facility was intended to bring together plant research, from biochemistry to soil studies, all together under one roof.
The $66 million Plant Sciences Building was funded by the Washington State Legislature (since WSU is a public school) and constructed by Skanska. The Seattle-based Berger Partnership served as landscape architect and created a plaza to connect the complex to the rest of the campus. The new building, as LMN noted in a press release, is the fourth to be realized as part of the Research and Education Complex at WSU master plan.