Submitted by Patricia M. Allen

February 4, 2008
Contact: Caroline Jenkins Hanna
Director of Media Relations


AMHERST, Mass.—Amherst College’s Earth Sciences and Museum of Natural History building has been recognized by the Boston Society of Architects (BSA) and the New England Chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) for its exceptional design. The building’s architectural firm, Payette, earned a BSA Honor Award and an AIA/New England Honor Award in the Education Category for the innovative facility.

Payette worked closely with Amherst’s geology faculty to develop a unique program and design for the building that seamlessly integrates teaching and research. In the facility, each faculty member’s office serves as a hub surrounded by a teaching laboratory/classroom, scientific instrumentation and faculty research laboratory. 

Jim Brassord, director of facilities and associate treasurer for campus services, praised Payette for their collaborative design approach and was pleased that both BSA and AIA recognized Payette’s design for its aesthetic value as well as functionality. “We are thrilled with the new building,” he said. “It is a wonderful visual and academic addition to campus.”

Opened to the public last year, the Earth Science and Museum of Natural History Building houses both the Museum of Natural History and the college’s geology department. The natural history collections at Amherst include vertebrate and invertebrate paleontological finds, minerals and other geologic specimens and anthropological material acquired through expeditions, exchanges, donations and purchases from the 1830s to the present. The collection mirrors the changing interests of the Amherst faculty and the history of scientific inquiry. Much comes from the Connecticut Valley, but also from Africa, Asia and South and Central America, where early Amherst graduates traveled as missionaries or explorers.

The Boston Society of Architects’ design awards program recognizes and honors excellence in architectural design by all Massachusetts architects and architects throughout the world who wish to submit projects in Massachusetts. The AIA/New England Design Award Competition recognizes design excellence in projects from New England-based architects as well as projects located in New England. 

Founded in the 1930s, Payette is an architectural firm specializing in the programming, planning and design of complex buildings for medical and scientific research, academic teaching, healthcare and corporate research. In addition to Amherst, some of its clients include Columbia University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Harvard University.