Coppin State University’s Science and Technology Center is a singular building that must address and fulfill many aspirations of this urban campus. It is a building that operates at both a macro and micro scale. It is a part of a campus, part of a city and part of a neighborhood. It fits into the fabric of the campus and the patterns of daily student life. It is a building specifically designed to meet today’s exacting tolerances and specifications for labs and teaching spaces but also to promote the cross pollination of ideas across disciplines and between faculty and students.
The City – The Campus – The Quad
The Baltimore neighborhood that surrounds the Coppin State University (CSU) campus consists of traditional, low scale, two and three story row houses. CSU has been working hard to maintain good relations with the neighborhood even as it expands into these decaying residential areas. With the design of the Science and Technology Center we wanted to open up the campus to the city, to emphatically mark its presence with an open space or quadrangle. The quad is meant to be a place of optimism, a place for commencement speeches about the bright futures of Coppin’s graduating seniors. The quad will become the new outdoor living room of the campus with students studying, hanging out on the south facing steps and enjoying a traditional university campus atmosphere. The building engages the neighborhood lightly at its edges with a zone of gardens and shallow site walls which are designed to allow for transparent visual connections while at the same time to provide a secure setting for the students.
The building’s specific location was determined by analyzing the existing campus pedestrian circulation system. The building sits astride the major north/south pedestrian walk which moves through the center of the campus. The walk crosses North Avenue and passes under the faculty office pavilion and down a sloping ramp against the face of the building. There are two lobbies, one at the north under the faculty office pavilion which faces the existing campus across North Avenue and a second at a lower level and to the south, directly across the quad from the adjacent Health and Human Services Building, (HHSB).
The quad space contains a set of large-scale campus steps which link the lower level green space up to North Avenue, a main east/west link to downtown Baltimore. These steps, whose precedence may be found in many American campuses, also directly relate to the traditional Baltimore row house marble front stoops. In fact recycled marble steps from houses previously on the site will be incorporated into the new campus steps. At the head of the steps sits a pedestal intended to house a statue of Fanny Jackson Coppin for whom the school is named. She was an African American educator and missionary born to an American slave.
The internal organization of the building was determined through numerous discussions with the faculty as well as a detailed program analysis of how to best stack the laboratories while accommodating flexible building systems. The faculty offices were grouped together to foster a sense of community. The double loaded lab volumes were splayed apart at the ends to create spaces for collaboration between students and faculty. To make the building floor plate more efficient, lab spaces requiring large amounts of air changes were placed on the top floors. This eliminated the need to bring large shaft spaces into the lower levels of the building. Architecturally, the building fits the existing masonry palette of the campus and neighborhood. The facades are designed to reflect the program within and the unique solar conditions of the site. Vertical fins shade the fully glazed faculty offices while deeply recessed strip windows at the labs block the direct sun.
Coppin State University’s Science and Technology Center strengthens and expands both the Coppin State campus and its relationship with its environs. The project energizes the campus connection with the city of Baltimore and the surrounding neighborhood through a striking gateway presence and formation of a classic campus quad.