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The new natural Science Center at Northern Kentucky University is the signature component of a major expansion and capital improvement campaign undertaken to respond to the University’s growing role as a regional center for higher education. This new $38 million facility represents the University’s largest investment in a single building since the University’s founding.

The design team was presented with several significant challenges for this new building. The University has stated a goal to place themselves at the forefront of science teaching methods and strategies, and in response to this goal, has established a new integrated science curriculum which brings together the departments of Biology, Chemistry, and Physics/Geology.

Northern Kentucky University was conceived as a “hilltop enclave”, modeled after Italian hill towns, and includes numerous buildings that expressively use concrete as both a structural and finish material. The design team responded to this context by using concrete as the frame for the building, both literally and conceptually. The Natural Science Building also acknowledges the new directions undertaken by the University by adding progressive modular metal panels, which reflect the embedded technology and a forward-thinking perspective.

The new Natural Science Center includes both teaching and research labs, many of which are designed for flexibility and adaptation that will allow the building to quickly respond to further advances in instructional methods. The classrooms and auditoriums are designed to accommodate a variety of instructional settings, from the traditional lecture format to small-group, hands-on learning.

In addition to the laboratory and classroom spaces, the new building also incorporates a number of specialized instructional spaces, including student and faculty computer centers, scanning electron microscope labs, a prosectorium, and a planetarium.

A large portion of the $30,000,000 budget is devoted to equipping the building with leading-edge technology that can be easily adapted to ever-changing audio-visual and computer technologies. Many of the classrooms and laboratories are equipped with fully-integrated student learning stations with direct power and data connections for lab-top computers. This gives students the ability to quickly acquire the information used in lectures and experiments from a variety of written and digital sources, and in a variety of formats.

Natural Science Building

Highland Heights, Kentucky

Biology, Chemistry, Physics lab & classroom building

Photography: ©

Client: Northern Kentucky University

Size (sf): 172,600 SF

Cost: $$30,000,000

Completed: 2002

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