Science Research Center Design: California State University, Sacramento Science II Building


View from North

By: Sussan Movassagh

CO Architects has worked with Sundt Construction and California State University, Sacramento to design the new five-story, 95,000-SF Science II Building for the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics (CNSM). This Design/Build project was awarded to the CO-Sundt team May of 2016 after an iterative design competition process.

The building’s program and design are in alignment with the university’s mission to expand the biology and chemistry programs to meet growing demands for science education as the campus increases its enrollment. Several core objectives helped shape the collaborative, light-filled character of this building and its spaces. The building’s shape and North-South orientation are designed to minimize solar heat gain while allowing for an abundance of natural daylight to penetrate deep into the interior spaces. Teaching laboratories have large expanses of glass to the public corridors to promote ‘Science on Display’. In response to the natural campus setting, the building provides indoor and outdoor student collaboration spaces and terraces, which create a connection with the adjacent American river and the verdant campus surroundings. An outdoor plaza provides a connection to the future quad and new student union. A 120-seat planetarium provides a visual focal point and will serve as resource for the entire campus.

Exterior - South Facade

View from South

The architectural elements of the building are designed to provide efficient layouts and fluid continuity between spaces, and to promote interaction between the users. We achieved this goal by making the entry lobby on axis with the center of the planetarium to the south and the entrance doors to the north, which created a spacious shared lobby space for use during events. The open and airy two-story lobby, which is one of the building’s key public spaces, was envisioned as the heart of the building, intersecting the two wings and filled with natural and artificial light. A sculptural stair floats within this space, inter-connecting the first two floors and displaying circulation aesthetically, while encouraging use as one of the main ways of circulation.

Level 1 - Lobby Plan

Level 1 – Lobby Plan

Complementing the design with the right use of material was another important element for developing the design. Within the lobby, there is a two-story wall clad with textured stone adjacent to the sculptural stair. Its rough texture will create a light and shadow effect on its surface once it is lit by direct and indirect light. In contrast, the elevator lobby wall, located on the opposite side, is clad with smooth, back-painted glass that reflects light and diffuses it back into the space.

(Upper) Two-story Lobby Wall - Elevation ; (Lower) Elevator Lobby Elevation

(Upper) Two-story Lobby Wall – Elevation
(Lower) Elevator Lobby Elevation

One of the major design intentions for the interior spaces such as lobbies, labs, and learning studios was to make them transparent to their users. We achieved this goal by maximizing daylight in these spaces to make them inviting, and to enhance the learning environment by creating a connection between exterior and interior. These spaces are supplemented by indirect artificial lighting to imitate the effects of natural light, enhance the interior spaces, and illuminate the building on campus at night.

The main corridor is like a spine centrally located on each level along side with labs and offices arranged on either side. The corridor walls are designed in full-height glazing that puts “science on display” and reveals the activities that are taking place in the labs.

Chemistry Laboratory

Chemistry Laboratory

Another way of creating a connection between the interior and exterior of the building was to introduce illuminated, full-height vertical wood fins in the student collaboration areas. These fins provide a semi-private spaces for the users to collaborate. The fins mimic the wooded texture of the campus and the exterior metal fins on the building façade.

Student Collaboration Axon

Student Collaboration

The interior architecture, palette of interior finishes and colors were designed with the goal of unifying the building’s interior and exterior, and facilitate effective and interactive teaching and learning environments that conform with university guidelines and the project’s sustainability goals.

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