At the core of Vassar’s Integrated Science Center project is a new “bridge building" that spans the Fonteyn Kill, a wetlands area that traverses the campus. With attention understandably focused on the construction of this dramatic 80,000-square-foot building scheduled for completion in 2015, the full extent of the College’s new Integrated Science Center designed by Ennead Architects can sometimes be obscured.
But with the start of the 2014 fall semester, Vassar already began reaping the first benefits of the sweeping project, as both New England and Sanders Physics buildings reopened after full renovations that took more than a year of work. In addition, Olmsted Hall of Biological Sciences is being enhanced during the construction to improve some of its infrastructure, upgrade some of its spaces, and provide a connection to the bridge building.
New England opened in 1901, and Sanders Physics in 1926. Each now has new infrastructure and mechanical systems (e.g., electrical, heating and cooling) and structural improvements (such as foundation reinforcement) as well as upgrades to their “vertical circulation” (new elevator and stairs) and “finishes” (walls, ceilings and flooring). Windows have been restored and renewed, as has all exterior masonry. Roofing has been replaced and repaired, and both buildings are now fully accessible under the standards of the Americans With Disabilities Act. In addition, both New England and Sanders were renovated following guidelines created by the U.S. Green Building Council, and are Vassar’s first Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified buildings. The bridge building is slated to achieve LEED silver status.
As the new home of the Psychology and Cognitive Science departments, New England reopened with many of its original architectural features restored and reintroduced. Prominent among these are the main staircase and its magnificent combination of skylight and lay light (a glazed panel set flush to the ceiling to admit natural light).
Redefined space has increased efficiency and usable square footage in Sanders Physics – such as the expansion of its former attic into new classroom and laboratory space – making room for the Computer Science Department to join the Physics and Astronomy Department in the building. To cite just one academic impact of the renovations, new work stations in the revitalized physics building will be able to connect experiments performed in the classroom to students’ iPads so they can re-run them back in their dorms when they are doing their homework.
As for the bridge building, steelworkers hoisted the final beam of its infrastructure into place in a June 2014 ceremony known as “topping out,” meaning that a building has reached its maximum height. When completed, the bridge building will offer its inhabitants modern labs, faculty office suites, flexible classrooms, and gathering places such as a cafe and an outdoor seating area.