Science Center courtyard

The new Science Center will enhance already outstanding programs in science education and research by providing the best possible facilities and promoting strong interdisciplinary connections. The spectacular design will stimulate curiosity and build community, while also setting a new standard on campus for green buildings.

—Biddy Martin, 19th President of Amherst College

In 2018, Amherst will have completed a spectacular new interdisciplinary Science Center with state-of-the art teaching and research facilities. The growing significance of science, technology, and math has boosted their popularity among students and reinforced their relevance to an Amherst education. During the past 15 years, enrollments in our science classes have increased by 53 percent, and the College has introduced two new science degrees. Amherst offers opportunities for undergraduate science students to work closely with their professors, participate in hands-on research, and even become co-authors on scientific journal articles.

A New Campus Hub

In addition to upgrading our science infrastructure, the Science Center will offer additional classrooms and gathering spaces that can be used by faculty and students from all over the campus. With its inviting exterior, large and functional main commons, visible research labs, surrounding gardens, and many areas for casual interaction, the Science Center will draw together the sciences and the wider College community.

Interdisciplinary Spaces

Two interior photos of the Science Center: The common space and a lab

“The ways we teach science and conduct research have changed dramatically in the decades since Merrill was built. We’re looking forward to flexible spaces in the new building that allow for innovative and modern ways of teaching science.”

Anthony Bishop, Professor of Chemistry

Amherst solicited extensive feedback from faculty and students in planning the Science Center, and every detail of the building reflects the sense of purpose that emerged.

As a result, the teaching and research spaces have been designed to facilitate the interdisciplinary partnerships that are increasingly shaping discoveries in science. The biology and chemistry departments will share multiple research labs, with student write-up space nearby, which will create opportunities for students involved in different projects to engage with and learn from one another. The astronomy department will enjoy an observation deck, the biology greenhouse will be located on the third floor of the sunny south pavilion, and the physics department will be tucked into the ground floor of the north pavilion, far from electromagnetic disruptions.

The Central Stair

Architectural sketch of stairway and elevators

The Central Stair is at the core of the building and provides access to all floors. Serving as the building’s main entry point, the area features a striking open staircase and a vestibule that includes an interactive computer display presenting faculty and student research. 

Light from the Winter Garden

Sketch of the winter garden recessed courtyard

Though built into the hillside, the ground floor will receive natural light from the recessed Winter Garden. The garden is bordered on all sides by social space. 

The North and South Commons

The Commons

A large, open area runs the length of the building and is separated by the Central Stair into the North and South Commons. A unifying space, the two commons bring all elements of the building together across levels. The commons, in turn, are open to campus. The large, west-facing curtain wall hangs in tension, with no columns to separate it from campus, making the work of science visible. 

walkway over the commons

Conserving Energy

The average science building uses about 370 kiloBTUs per square foot per year. We intend to reduce that by 73 percent or more through a variety of features: highly efficient systems for everything from the building HVAC system down to individual lab hoods; a state-of-the-art insulating building envelope; careful floor plan design so that sensitive and specialized lab systems are grouped together; and a rooftop solar panel array. 

Science Center Construction

About the Architect

The College selected Payette Associates, the firm behind Beneski Earth Sciences Building, as architects. Known for their work on technologically and programmatically complex buildings at colleges and universities nationwide, Payette has a track record of conscientious design and beautiful craftsmanship. With the input of the faculty, they have designed a building equal to the College’s ambitions for a Science Center that is a functional and compelling highlight of our campus.

With its inviting exterior, large and functional main commons, visible research labs, internal garden, and many areas for casual interaction, the Science Center will be a state-of-the-art facility that draws together the sciences and the community as a whole.