Facility Focus (Landscapes and Outdoor Learning Spaces)

Southern Connecticut State University: Academic Science and Laboratory Building

Southern Connecticut State University

PHOTOS © NATHANIEL RILEY PHOTOGRAPHY

While the vast majority of prominent design features at Southern Connecticut State University’s (SCSU) Academic & Science Laboratory Building are incorporated into the structure itself, its adjacent geological rock garden plays a prominent role within the “science enclave.”

In keeping with a theme that permeates Centerbrook Architects & Planners’ design of the 104,000-square-foot building that opened for the 2015-16 academic year on SCSU’s New Haven campus, the geological rock garden is a teaching tool as well as an expression of art.

Thomas Fleming, professor of earth science at SCSU, oversaw the collection of the stones, which are comprised of 52 different boulders indigenous to Connecticut. Positioned along a spiraling pathway near the entrance of the building, the geological garden is a hands-on educational display that also serves as an outdoor classroom.

Typical classroom rock and mineral samples are inches in size while geological garden rocks are measured in feet. This better simulates what is found in an actual rock outcrop in the field, and provides students with more realistic observations regarding texture and orientation. At that scale, students can also measure features like foliation and bedding that are difficult to observe in a traditional classroom.

Numerous quarries across Connecticut donated the rocks, which also affords an opportunity to learn about their history and operations. For example, one of the sources — Stony Creek Quarry — has provided its distinctive pink stone for many iconic buildings and monuments, including the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty and the foundations for the Brooklyn Bridge.

See a video of the project at vimeo.com/142171216.

This article originally appeared in the April 2017 issue of College Planning & Management.

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