Next month Lehman College CUNY will dedicate its $70 million Science Hall designed by Perkins+Will. The new Bronx facility will abut Gillet Hall, one of the campus’ depression-era gothic buildings, while sparring with Raphael Viñoly’s massive metallic wave-like gymnasium called the Apex. “We tried an elegant yet simple form that enhances the sculptural quality of the Viñoly building, so as not to try to compete against it, but to act as a foil,” said Robert Goodwin, design director at Perkins+Will. “And we maintained a strong relationship to Gillet Hall.”
In material and palette, the 69,000-square-foot building takes notes from both its gothic and contemporary neighbors, with vertically stacked blond bricks—a nod to Gillet—and corrugated metal panels that cooperate with the Apex. Compared to the Apex the new addition is a reserved structure, but it does stake its own design claims in its combination stairwell and student-lounge.
The four-story glass-enclosed stairwell serves as an atrium for the building and as such is visually exposed. It represents the building’s primary design gesture on the campus’ College Walk, an oak-lined pedestrian promenade. Two wings sprout from this activity hub, meant to symbolize the junction of the two disciplines that activate the respective wings: research and teaching. The stair/lounge areas float within the glass atrium space, held up by cantilevered landings tied back to each floor slab. Here is the space where undergrad aspirants are intended to meet and mingle with leaders in the field of plant sciences, which is Lehman’s sole Ph.D. program.
But it is CUNY’s desire to achieve LEED Platinum certification in this building that truly separates it from the rest of the campus and brings it in line with contemporary design thinking. In spite of the fact that labs use a lot of energy, the university pressed for the top rating. “They would’ve totally received good press with LEED Silver but they went above and beyond,” said project architect Tony Alfieri.
It’s not the first lab in the city to go platinum. Thom Mayne’s 41 Cooper Square for Cooper Union attained the designation, but that private institution did not have to follow the stringent public procurement procedures of the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York (DASNY), an authority that finances and builds a variety of public buildings across the state. This required a higher-than-usual level of cooperation between the architect and contractor, Gilbane. The public procurement dictates that that DASNY buy only from low cost vendors. Everything in the building, both large, like lab furniture, and small, like motion and thermal sensors, had to be purchased at the lowest cost.