George Mason University, Exploratory Hall
Square Footage: 162,000
Exploratory Hall links two existing college of science buildings with a 62,000 square foot addition adding new Biology, Chemistry, and Geology teaching labs, and a rooftop greenhouse to the College of Science, along with the renovation of 100,600 SF of existing space.
Program blocks of the building are oriented along a three-story, linear public space, which strengthens an existing but neglected student circulation path that links the College of Science quadrangle to a major campus axis. Major entries on either end of this pathway encourage students to pass through the building and learn about the activities within.
The pathway culminates in a central three-story atrium space, which is the new heart of the complex. Stairways, balconies, and bridges create a rich, multilevel public gathering space. The site steps down from the west entry with a series of stepped terraces which create outdoor teaching and green spaces.
Views into laboratories and science-inspired flooring patterns raise awareness of the activities of the college for visitors and students as they pass through the buildings. The scientific motifs extend into the landscape with a geology garden to the west and science-themed “dialogue benches” to the east.
Perforated metal screens with scientific motifs shade the new and existing facades on either side of the building. Zinc rainscreen cladding further accentuates the pathway against the brick facades of the existing buildings.