Krishna P. Singh Center for Nanotechnology
Philadelphia, PA, USA
WEISS/MANFREDI Architecture/Landscape/Urbanism (Architect and Site Design)
University of Pennsylvania, Eduardo Glandt, Former Dean of the School of Engineering
The Krishna P. Singh Center for Nanotechnology is designed to encourage the exchange and integration of knowledge that characterizes the emerging field of nanotechnology. The Center is the University’s first cross-disciplinary building between the sciences and engineering, combining the resources of both the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and the School of Arts and Sciences to transcend disciplinary boundaries between engineering, medicine, and the sciences. While laboratory buildings are typically organized around a central corridor that affords little public space, the Center inverts this model, focusing the laboratories around a new central quad. This convergence of architecture and landscape is at the heart of this project and provides a new indoor/outdoor open space for interaction, allowing panoramic exterior views, opening the sciences to the University landscape, and making research activities highly visible. The public galleria at the building’s entry is centralized around a monumental stair, highly visible to draw students through the double height space. The stair hosts flexible lounges to encourage work and collaboration to happen throughout the building. The spatial sequence spirals upwards around the galleria and unfurls around the courtyard to culminate with a multipurpose forum—a room contained within the building’s cantilever for lectures, receptions, and meetings—offering an elevated perch to views of the historic Penn campus.
The Krishna P. Singh Center for Nanotechnology transforms a former bus parking lot located at the eastern edge of the University of Pennsylvania’s campus into a welcoming gateway to the University and expresses its leadership in the field of nanotechnology. The Singh Center is the University’s first transdisciplinary building designed to house a range of high level laboratory functions. Though restrictive, the complex technical parameters of the laboratory program enhance the building’s architectural and urban potential. The most sensitive nanotechnology research requires complete isolation from surrounding elements such as vibration, electromagnetic interference, and ultraviolet light waves. In order to shape an environment suitable for these precise research conditions, the building is set back a considerable distance from the street and vibration zones of surrounding buildings (such as elevator cores). Externally, this setback welcomed a new 1.7 acre campus green—a microcosm of Penn’s famed quadrangle. The Center is designed to focus the laboratories around this new central green, introducing the sciences to the University. The building hosts state-of-the-art fabrication and characterization labs and a ten-thousand-square-foot cleanroom, as well as general labs, classrooms, meeting rooms, and a large public forum that cantilevers sixty-eight-feet over the new campus green. An ascending public galleria is situated between the lab and exterior enclosure and features a 158-foot amber-colored glass wall that filters ultraviolet light to protect the photosensitive nanofabrication equipment inside the labs, allowing the public to view the research from the galleria.
The Center for Nanotechnology is the first new university building to bring together researchers from both the School of Arts and Science and the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, facilitating interaction between faculty and students, researchers across disciplines, and between the University and the city. The facility is also made available for professional research processes for the region’s scientists, becoming a central node for the region’s scientific community. This hybrid usership catalyzes the potential exchange and synthesis of knowledge that emerges from the research. Embracing the site’s position at the hinge of two distinct urban areas, the Center for Nanotechnology is designed to both mark the transition from city to campus and to serve as a public showcase for innovative research. By placing the research on display, the inward-oriented focus of a traditional research facility is inverted. Simultaneously, researchers are relieved of isolation through the introduction of as much natural light as possible into the lab spaces and shared amenities, such as conference rooms and lounge spaces, which are all visually connected throughout the building.