Plant Sciences Building
Adam Hunter/LMN Architects

Plant Sciences Building

LMN Architects as Architects

LMN ARCHITECTS CELEBRATES THE COMPLETION OF THE PLANT SCIENCES BUILDING AT WASHINGTON STATE UNIVERSITY

THE PROJECT IS A STATE-OF-THE-ART BUILDING FOR COLLABORATIVE RESEARCH AND IS INTENDED TO SUPPORT REGIONAL AND GLOBAL AGRICULTURE. THE 82,437-SQUARE-FOOT BUILDING SUPPORTS WASHINGTON’S $51 BILLION FOOD AND AGRICULTURE INDUSTRY BY PROVIDING A MODERN RESEARCH VENUE FOR FACULTY AND STUDENTS IN THE INSTITUTE OF BIOLOGICAL CHEMISTRY, WSU'S MOLECULAR PLANT SCIENCE PROGRAM, AND PORTIONS OF THE DEPARTMENTS OF HORTICULTURE, PLANT PATHOLOGY, AND CROP AND SOIL SCIENCES.

LMN Architects is pleased to celebrate the opening of the Plant Sciences Building at Washington State University in Pullman, Washington. The latest addition to the V. Lane Rawlins Research and Education Complex, the $66 million building was funded by the Washington State Legislature.

Washington State University is a preeminent agricultural research institution committed to fostering its land-grant heritage and tradition of service to society. The Plant Sciences Building integrates several disciplines from the College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences (CAHNRS), and is central to fulfilling this mission. The recently completed building is a new center for interdisciplinary research and was designed and constructed by the design/build team of Skanska and LMN Architects. The project provides new infrastructure for the Institute of Biological Chemistry, as well as laboratories that integrate faculty and students in plant biochemistry, pathology, horticulture, and crop and soil sciences into a single facility.

"Because of the close collaboration between the architects at LMN and our college and university, we were able to design and build a truly modern facility for WSU plant research," said André-Denis Wright, Dean of CAHNRS.

The project drew on participation from members of the state's grain, tree fruit, wine, grape, potato, dairy, beef, and raspberry industries, as well as the Washington State Department of Agriculture and the Washington Farm Bureau, in development of the facility.

"This isn't just a building—it's a braintrust for the future of Washington agriculture," said Vicky Scharlau, Executive Director of the Washington Winegrowers Association. "By understanding basic, fundamental plant processes, people here today are creating the foundation for the agriculture of tomorrow."

The building is the fourth to be completed within the master plan for the Research and Education Complex (REC) at WSU, originally developed by LMN Architects in 2005. The master plan envisioned a series of laboratory buildings alternately flanking a glazed spine element that serves as the connective tissue for the social and research life of the complex. The new building is positioned to the south of the Biotechnology and Life Sciences building, also designed by LMN Architects, and completed in 2009. As the central element of the completed complex, the building forms a prominent primary entry point that frames a new public space along Stadium Way.

“The new Plant Sciences Building marks a significant milestone in Washington State’s commitment to sustainable agriculture and ecological stewardship,” says LMN Partner Stephen Van Dyck, AIA. “As a central element of the Research and Education Complex, the new building provides state-of-the-art research facilities that are interconnected to the culture of research on the Washington State University campus. As a central node of the interdisciplinary complex, the building is designed to nurture collaborative innovation in this critical sector.”

The plan configuration of the building allows it to fulfill the master plan while accommodating an existing utility tunnel to the south – a formal adjustment to the master plan which unlocked significant opportunities in construction cost and schedule savings. At the western entry, the building’s cantilevered composition frames a new grand entry to the whole complex, and features a two-floor cantilever facing west towards Martin Stadium. The new landscaped approach creates a multifunctional public space for the university, celebrating arrival to the complex and fostering campus-wide gatherings.

The new facility will be a social and interdisciplinary heart for the research complex. Designed for flexibility well into the future, the building hosts infrastructure for a variety of research needs beyond the College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences. Upon arrival, a welcoming four-floor staircase encourages vertical circulation and provides important visual connections between floors. At every level, centralized social spaces link circulation elements with the REC’s central spine, designed to fuel spontaneous collaboration within the communal core.

The interior arrangement of laboratories is designed to support efficient and flexible research over time. The modular laboratories can be easily rearranged to respond to the changing needs of research throughout the building. To the north of the modular laboratories, offices for Principal Investigators are interspersed with open work areas for graduate researchers. To the south of the laboratories, a series of modular support spaces accommodate a variety of specialized research equipment within easy reach of the adjacent lab benches.

On the exterior, the building reimagines the red-brick campus vernacular in a new architectural approach; a high-performance precast concrete façade panel system is clad with a sculpted, red-brick veneer. The panels integrate structure, insulation, weather barrier, interior, and exterior finishes within a single prefabricated component, accelerating construction sequencing and enabling a bespoke composition of organically inspired brick surfacing. The resulting building form presents an abstract composition culminating in the integration of the building’s internal modular planning with the panelized façade components.

Jennifer Milliron, Principal, comments: “We have approached the design and delivery process for this building as an effort in applied research. Our Progressive Design-Build team partnered with WSU early in the process and prioritized innovative design and construction methods. Our partnership with Skanska allowed our team to explore integrated design and construction opportunities that prioritized high-performance systems, opening opportunities for architectural expression while simultaneously maximizing construction efficiencies.” 

The building’s prefabricated façade system both enhances the speed of the construction schedule and transforms the architectural possibilities throughout the building. On the inside, the integrated concrete panels are left exposed to become the finished surface in many of the building’s workspaces. On the exterior, the undulating brick pattern—made possible through CNC-driven formwork—casts shadows which animate the façade throughout the day in a dynamic play of light that is unique to the eastern Washington Palouse landscape.

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