Science on Display
Recently completed, the Jepson Science Center at the University of Mary Washington puts science on display to inspire the next generation of curious minds. Commonwealth Architects with The S/L/A/M Collaborative provided architectural and engineering services for the rehabilitation and expansion for the University’s home of sciences on their historic campus in Fredericksburg, Virginia.
Early in the design process, it became obvious that the project goals would transcend above merely providing the needed teaching spaces. The Professors envisioned a building that would highlight the science community and accelerate the growth of science programs. To create this excitement, the sciences within Jepson would need to be visible to visitors inside and out. In an effort to achieve this goal, the renovation and addition was designed to show glimpses of how the Jepson Science Center was constructed and how it operates. These open spaces provide a platform to attract prospective students and lure curious minds.
The Jepson Science Center houses a variety of departments, including Biology, Chemistry, Earth & Environmental Sciences, and Physics. These combined departments have been in the current facility for twenty years, and they could not completely fit into the original Jepson building. With the renovation and addition, professors were able to bring classes back into Jepson that were previously taught in other parts of campus, which reinforces the scientific community and increases their synergy between disciplines.
The redesign of the Jepson Science Center features a modern interpretation of classical architectural proportions while maintaining the standards of the university. This allows the work of students, as well as the engineering and construction elements of the building, to be on display. These features include glazed window walls, solar shading devices, and a native grasses meadow located along College Avenue. Cloud ceilings are pulled away from the walls, exposing steel columns various mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems. A unique element is a marine vessel loading dock to allow easy transportation of research materials from the various rivers and streams to the labs. Jepson also includes laser labs, plant growth chambers, aquatic animal vivarium, a Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NRM) machine, and informal meeting spaces to allow students space to collaborate and learn together.
With its completion, the Jepson Science Center’s renovation creates a distinctive link between campus and the city that shows a dramatic face to the outside world. The idea of science on display creates the perfect opportunity for exciting educational experiences for current and prospective students.