Wellesley College, founded in 1870, was among the first institutions of higher education in the country to encourage women to study the sciences. Today, the college is reinvesting in this legacy with a transformation of its Science Center.
Situated on a historic campus designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr., the existing Science Center was constructed in the 1920s and expanded in later decades to accommodate new research programs. SOM conducted a thorough analysis of the complex to determine how to reconcile disparate buildings, while making the most of one of the college’s most cherished assets—its historic landscape. The plan will modernize existing infrastructure, while creating new spaces to sustain Wellesley’s position at the forefront of science education.
The Science Center comprises four existing structures: Ferguson Greenhouses, built in 1922; Sage Hall, built in 1928; L-Wing, a 1977 addition which includes laboratories and a dramatic four-story atrium called the Focus, and E-Wing, a 1991 extension with classrooms and offices. After a thorough inventory and analysis that revealed the inefficiencies and limitations of the existing buildings, SOM proposed to demolish portions of Sage Hall while preserving the Focus, and to replace it with a new addition that will transform the Science Center into a crossroads for the campus.
The design concept envisions the Science Center as a “living laboratory,” with strong connections to the surrounding landscape. It will link existing facilities on Science Hill—including the observatory, the Global Flora greenhouse project, the arboretum, and the botanic gardens—to create a “village” of science programs. The design opens up the fortress-like buildings to the outdoors, and also introduces two new gardens that will be used for scientific and ecological pedagogy.
The renovated Science Center will include new offices, meeting areas, classrooms, a renovated vivarium, and core research spaces. The Innovation Hub, a cluster of interdisciplinary teaching labs, will provide space to explore new pedagogies and put scientific work on display. The Data Lab will be home to a growing field of data-driven research that will revitalize the existing science library. Finally, the Center for the Environment—comprising the greenhouses, gardens, and Global Flora collections—will become the headquarters for campus-wide initiatives on sustainability, ecology, and the environment.