Home AEC Designs for W.M. Keck Science Center in McMinnville, Oreg., to Emphasize Importance...

Designs for W.M. Keck Science Center in McMinnville, Oreg., to Emphasize Importance of Interdisciplinary Studies

WM Keck Science Center, Linfield University, Oregon, SRG Partnership, KPFF, PAE, SRG Partnership
Courtesy of SRG Partnership

By Meghan Hall

Linfield University in McMinnville, Oreg., is anticipating the completion of a new expansion that will transform the institution’s educational opportunities. In January, the project team broke ground on the W.M. Keck Science Center, a 34,000 square foot addition to the university. Ultimately, the university hopes that the addition–along with renovations to the existing campus–will highlight the importance of STEM research and interdisciplinary work.

“The goal of STEM education is to inspire students to think, innovate, prototype and research, often working in teams,” explained SRG Partnership Principal Lisa Petterson. “To support a collaborative concept, a STEM-oriented facility needs to be centered around project-based learning and needs to foster a positive culture that allows students to problem-solve, collaborate, create, and to test ideas together.”

In addition to SRG Partnership, the university is also working with Walsh Construction, KPFF,  PAE and others to complete the project.

The project will provide a mix of new teaching, research and laboratory space for the biology, chemistry and physics departments. A number of classrooms, faculty offices and a multi-purpose room are part of the plans. Renovations to Graf Hall, built in 1960, and to Murock Hall, built in 1980, are part of the project’s plans.

In all, there were six key planning principles that drove the organization of the building, including the creation of neighborhoods and vertical circulation areas, and the use of wayfinding and pathways to draw students and faculty through the building.

Courtesy of SRG Partnership

Faculty-student research hubs are located at the heart of the building, while faculty offices have been grouped together to support collaboration and access. Similarly, student learning spaces have also been clustered together. Joint uses of space connect neighborhoods, departments and upper division labs to one another. Interactive nodes seek to serve as “beacons” for students who use the complex.

“This team-based approach to learning also needs to go beyond the classroom or teaching laboratory – which is one of the reasons we focused so much of the building’s square footage to create interactive spaces for students,” said Petterson. “It is often in these soft spaces that the real learning takes place. Because they create opportunities to learn from each other and build relationships, these spaces can increase student retention.”

The new building will be linked to the north end of Graf Hall and include a double-height, east facing porch with large glass windows. The goal, according to Petterson and SRG, is to create a highly transparent and daylit lobby. The lobby will attach to a new entry plaza and will provide fixed seating. An outdoor terrace to the north will also serve as both an outdoor classroom and organized event space.

“What I like about both of these spaces is that they are simultaneously about giving back to the University as a whole, while also fulfilling a specific function within the Science curriculum,” Petterson. “The north terrace and center lobby is at the heart of the University’s new wine studies program, providing valuable program and community space for that program, while the Keck Lobby provides a two story interaction and study space for students.”

Modern brick and white metal window frames will anchor the building amidst the university’s existing architecture. Dark metal accents will provide an additional modern touch. With construction underway, final competition is expected at the end of 2022, with the first use by students occurring in January of 2023.

Linfield University was originally founded in 1958. A four-year university, the independent college has campuses in both McMinnville and Portland. It currently has a total population of about 1,798 students, of which 34 percent are first generation and more than one-third are students of color, according to its website. The university prides itself on producing top-tier scholars and with the help of the W.M. Keck Science Center expansion, it will be able to accommodate future growth.