The new Krishna P. Singh Center for Nanotechnology, which began construction two and a half years ago in February 2011, will be opening this Friday.
The building, designed to accommodate researchers from the School of Engineering and Applied Science and the College of Arts and Sciences, is built around two massive labs specially designed to maximize precision in scientific experiments. “The dogma for the first floor is no dust,” said Engineering Dean Eduardo Glandt. “The dogma downstairs is no vibration.”
On the first floor, he’s referring to the giant cleanroom, a scientific facility with a low concentration of particles in the air to conduct nanoresearch. “We had a very primitive one before, but now ours is state of the art,” Glandt said.
One wall of the 10,000 square feet cleanroom faces the sunlit entrance. It’s a beautiful view, but ultraviolet rays from the sun pose potential harm to the experiments inside. The architects decided to counteract this by building an amber colored wall to filter out the damaging rays.
This wall of amber in the sea of glass and white columns sets the color scheme for the entire building. Marigold lounge chairs and tables stand out against pristine white staircases and pillars. Booths of the same color fill one wall of the second floor.
“We added lounges and booths to have the space be colonized by students once it opens,” Glandt said.
The second floor contains 10 new labs, which are for “new faculty growth,” according to Glandt. Current College and Engineering scientists in departments ranging from bioengineering to physics, as well as new hires, will share this space.
Continuing further upstairs, one reaches the cantilevered floor, which juts out and above the second floor. Glandt and University Architect David Hollenberg call it a “daring civil engineering gesture.”
The cantilever soars above the rest of the 3200 block on Walnut, offering a view all the way up Walnut street past Huntsman Hall. “If there is beachfront property on campus, this is it,” Glandt said.
The Singh Center is also an environmentally conscious building. On top, a green roof with a terrace looks out over the courtyard below as well as the Walnut street block. “This green roof is a lot rawer than other green roofs,” Hollenberg said, pointing to the six new magnolia trees and the shrubs surrounding them. “It really presents a contrast.”
The plants on the roof will be regularly watered with stormwater collected by specially designed pipes in the courtyard, another green feature. “We’re shooting for a minimum LEED silver [award], but we’re hoping for gold,” said Anne Papageorge, vice president of Facilities and Real Estate Services.
Downstairs below the cleanroom in the Garden Lobby, the building has more features designed to keep vibrations to a minimum. The walls have special metal plates built into them to guard against outside electromagnetic fields, and the front courtyard was built to shield the lower level from the noise of the street. “If there is nuclear war, we will meet there,” Glandt jokes of the lower level.
The measure is necessary since that floor contains experiments which use electron microscopy — a very precise scientific technique that allows researchers to see things directly on the molecular level. “The temperature control is plus or minus 0.1 degrees centigrade … and the metal cabinets had to be replaced with wooden ones,” Glandt said, giving examples of some of the measures taken.
As much as the building itself is a work of architecture, it also has several installations of fine art placed throughout. Most prominently, jutting out from the manicured courtyard lawn is Tony Smith’s famous 1962 “We Lost,” a monolithic black polygon. Many years ago, it could be seen in place of the Love statue on College Green, but it was put away for storage until now.
“It is much better here than it was there,” Glandt said.
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