UMD Swenson Science Building

Location: Duluth, Minnesota
Program: Academic Teaching and Research Laboratory
Status: Complete, 2006
Collaborative Partners: Stanius Johnson Architects, Oslund
Photography: © Hedrich Blessing, Steve Hall

The James I. Swenson Science Building for the University of Minnesota at Duluth is situated on one of the main corridors into the 244 acre campus.  The new building is comprised of 108,000 gross square feet of inter disciplinary research and teaching laboratories for Chemistry, Fresh Water Ecology and Biology and creates a link between the academic and residential areas of the campus.  The port of Duluth and Lake Superior provide a spectacular backdrop for this state-of-the-art laboratory facility. The purpose of the project was to provide a new research and teaching science facility serving the Chemistry and Biology programs at the University of Minnesota Duluth.  The program included the need for 16 undergraduate instructional laboratories for 2100 students and 16 research laboratories for faculty and postdoctoral researchers.  The building required offices for faculty, graduate and postgraduate students, and the Biology department’s administration. The James I. Swenson Science Building embodies the effective integration of long-term campus planning, landscape architecture, art development, academic department goals, facility programming, architectural design, cost control, capital planning, and construction. The exterior materials: brick, stone, cor-ten and wood were selected for their historic and economic importance to the Northland. Teaching and research labs are day lighted. Lab furniture and finishes feature natural, locally found materials, particularly larch and oak wood.  A wild rice research laboratory built into the watershed creates a front yard and an outdoor learning space. Art in Architecture sculpture is by John David Mooney. The building bridges the steep terrain creating a vehicular entry gateway to campus and is connected to other science buildings by skyway. The teaching and research wings join in a two story “Science Living Room” where students and teachers can interact in a space with spectacular views of Lake Superior. A spiral outdoor stair connects the Living Room to the wild rice outdoor classroom.