Wellesley College has always been a leader in Science education. In fact, did you know that Wellesley Alumnae are awarded more science and engineering doctoral degrees than female graduates of any other liberal arts college? It’s true. The Wellesley network includes research pioneers, leaders in public health, experts in disease and preventative medicine, along with a groundbreaking string theorist and a NASA astronaut – just to name a few.
The College will soon have a cutting edge Science Center where the next generations of leading women scientists will collaborate, make new discoveries, tackle theorems, engineer inventive solutions to the world’s most pressing problems—and so much more. A committee, comprising a multidisciplinary team of community representatives from the administration, faculty from the arts and sciences, and trustees has chosen architects from the Roger Duffy Studio at SOM (Skidmore, Owings & Merrill), one of the largest, most established architecture firms in the country, to lead the creation of this new space.
"An important pedagogical goal for this project is to create spaces where faculty can exercise their creativity by adopting new modes of teaching while preserving the excellence we are currently achieving,” said Ann Velenchik, Associate Professor of Economics and Dean of Academic Affairs. “Improvements in the size, shape and furnishing of our classrooms will allow for more active learning and project based instruction, better integration of technology, better sightlines for students to blackboards and screens, and more comfortable and inviting classrooms."
The Roger Duffy Studio has an impressive record of peer-reviewed design excellence, with projects including the campus center at New York City’s New School, New York’s Skyscraper Museum, and the Center for Character & Leadership Development (CCLD) at the U.S. Air Force Academy. The last project was recently profiled in Architecture Magazine.
According to Jon Alvarez, director of design and construction, the project attracted a large international pool of candidates. Twenty-one firms were invited to submit qualifications for the commission, 18 responded and ten were invited to submit proposals. Additionally, Alvarez said, firms were invited to team with other firms that specialized in “the design of science learning environments.” He said this strategy gave the committee “the confidence that they were getting the best and the brightest, and the most technically sound.”
The final four candidates were invited to present their work to the campus community, but were instructed not to present specific design solutions. They were instead asked to “identify the significant challenges of the project and discuss how their previous work illustrates their ability to solve similar problems and produce excellent design.”
Alvarez called the Science Center project one of the “most complex architectural problems he’s encountered” in over 40 years in the business. “It’s a tremendous puzzle with constraints, technical issues, design issues…we needed to bring in the best.”
The Roger Duffy Studio, a niche group of handpicked talent within SOM, stood out. “His team did the most outstanding work in every phase of the selection process, from submission of qualifications and proposal to interview and presentation, and rose to the top,” said Alvarez. It was also important to the committee that women hold key roles on the team Project Manager and Technical Architect roles. The group has enlisted Jacobs Consultancy as its science partner for the project.
The committee’s recommendation letter noted that the Roger Duffy team “understood and articulated with deep sensitivity the sense of place in analyzing the project.” And also “gave considerable thought to how the project would relate to the rest of Wellesley’s campus, and the prior work the team presented indicated considerable responsiveness to campus context and surrounding landscape.”
Construction is scheduled to begin before the start of the 2018-2019 school year.