|New Physics Building Opens
Innovative Design Provides 'Teaching Space With a Future'
Front entrance (pictured at right) of the 225,000 square-foot,$32 million new physics facility.
"We knew this was a once in a lifetime opportunity," says Liz Seiberling, physics professor and construction manager of the new $32 million physics facility, "so we put a lot of thought into the design." Seiberling, a surface physicist, seized the chance to help shape her own future as a scientist and teacher by getting involved with the new Physics Building from the very earliest planning stages. "I've always been interested in architecture," she explains, "so I participated in the design of the labs and teaching spaces. That kind of developed into my being the building chair. Then, as it progressed through the planning and design phase to the construction phase, I just took over the responsibilities until finally I ended up doing a lot of ordering of furniture and equipment. It's been a five-year process."
The windows which dominate the front of the building accurately portray the sunny feeling one gets inside, especially in the spacious "lobby" area and on the third floor where the departmental and office space is located. The offices (nearly all of which feature large windows) are organized around a central outdoor courtyard, that Seiberling hopes will be a focal point. "We tried to incorporate all kinds of interaction areas into the design," she explains, "so that people will be able to have more informal meetings, enhancing communication within the department."
Until their recent move, the Physics Department was scattered between Williamson Hall, McCarty Hall and the Nuclear Science Building. Professors had to plan ahead to schedule meetings and secure access to suitably sized conference areas. Although Seiberling admits that the new building "may at first appear compartmentalized," she notes with pride that, "if you look carefully, there are many little spaces tucked away for meetings and conferences, formal and informal," a feature she feels "lends to the spontaneity and ease with which we will now be able to work cooperatively."
Also of note is the building's
"lecture-demo" hall. Smaller than the typical lecture room, it seats
100 people and is fully set up for demonstrations. "It's very close
to being interactive where every seat can be connected on-line," Seiberling
says. "This is why I think this building has endless possibilities
that we don't even realize yet--it's teaching space with a future!"