The iconic Science and Learning Center at St. Mary’s University of Minnesota was a dream long delayed because of financial uncertainties. When this dream met the reality of Wight & Company’s Design Led – Design Build approach, the University was able to make their vision for the next generation of science education a reality while at the same time saving time and money. A guaranteed maximum price gave fundraisers a clear goal, and the integrated project approach got students and educators into the new facility seven months ahead of schedule. Additionally, Wight’s interdisciplinary team added $300,000 in unbudgeted improvements and returned to the University $500,000 in unspent budget.
Committed to the idea of cross-discipline exposure for all students, the new facility contains both teaching laboratories and classrooms, as well as a presentation room and student collaborative hubs that are designed to host the varied interests of Saint Mary’s 5,900 undergraduate and graduate students. A daylight-filled atrium, with communicating stairs connecting all levels, forms the central circulation spine of the building. All teaching and research spaces are accessed from this common area, and figuratively put “learning on display” via generous windows that allow views into all teaching spaces, as well as borrowing natural light from the atrium. Students and faculty from various disciplines are encouraged to interact and exchange ideas that are not typically shared in single-subject academic facilities. A planned repurposing of the directly connected existing science building has created a faculty office community that further integrates academic subjects and promotes student engagement.