Architect: Performa, Inc.
Owner: St. Norbert College
Contractor: Miron Construction Co., Inc.
The existing 100,000 square-foot John R. Minahan Science Hall, built in the early 1960’s, is located on the north side of the St. Norbert College campus adjacent to the Fox River in De Pere, Wisconsin. This dated facility underwent a major transformation to become a state-of-the-art science center. The project consisted of a complete renovation to the main building with new additions constructed at both the east and west ends, increasing the facility’s size to 160,000 square feet. While the existing structure was stripped down, new construction incorporated large windows that bathe the environments used for teaching and interacting. Now named the Gehl-Mulva Science Center, this project represents St. Norbert College’s most significant capital building project to date. It also serves as the primary home of the Medical College of Wisconsin’s Green Bay Campus. The science center houses physics, math, psychology, geology, biology and chemistry, including faculty offices and lounges. These departments have 45 teaching and research labs, 10 classrooms, 1 large lecture hall, student study lounges, small-group workrooms and informal collaborative spaces, a state-of-the-art greenhouse, science gallery, and displays honoring the scientific contributions of Norbertines. The building is also the home to 38 science faculty that were dispersed throughout the campus as the science program grew from the early 1960’s.
The new construction was set up in two phases. The first phase was the west remodel with the east and west additions and the second phase was the east remodel. The purpose of phasing the project was to allow half of the building to remain open for classes which was a strategy that had to be integrated with the design of the facility. The science center was designed in accordance with LEED 2009 for New Construction and Major Renovation and was awarded LEED Gold status in 2015.
An inventive and thoughtful approach for the Gehl-Mulva Science Center nods both to the college’s roots in the Norbertine tradition and its ongoing participation in the Catholic intellectual tradition. The design is both artful and quintessentially Norbertine, integrating the 900-year old Norbertine tradition with the sciences is “an intersection of faith and reason.” The primary design solution was to architecturally explore faith and reason. Beginning with the axial alignment of the institution’s Old St. Joseph’s Church showcasing the compatibility of faith and reason in the science building’s two story atrium that is utilized for these rich conversations. Bible verses are paired with earthly imagery and thoughtful design throughout the building to further elevate this concept.
The vision of the design addresses dictums for the future scientific discovery of infusion and interaction within the existing historic structure. Infusion refers to the integration of teaching and research throughout the curriculum. Interaction refers to developing interdisciplinary scientific relationships within the college community. When incorporated throughout the curriculum, these concepts produce science graduates who understand the complexities of modern scientific research and possess the knowledge and technical skills to be active participants in the scientific community. The Gehl-Mulva Science Center should be considered for an award for its transformation from a dated building into a 21st century state-of-the-art science facility that enhances the lives of those whom use the facility in both their faith and reason, and its impact on the college and local community.