Searles Science Center is a Sight to Behold
Story posted October 05, 1999
The completely renovated Searles Science Building offers a perfect contrast to Druckenmiller Hall, the quintessential modern center of science and technology. Searles, a medieval revival built in 1894, has 12-foot-high windows, chestnut-trussed ceilings and solid oak woodwork surrounding its state-of-the-art technology.
Searles will be rededicated on Oct. 29 to mark the end of the $9 million renovation project. Visitors familiar with the "old" Searles will be shocked. Gone are the dark, crooked hallways and oppressive color schemes. In their place are bright, airy classrooms with modern technology alongside the antique fixtures. The hallways are wide and straight. And a new atrium provides a welcoming entrance from Park Row, where a loading dock and dumpster used to be the only elements visible from town.
The building originally was designed by Henry Vaughan, the same architect responsible for the Hubbard Grandstand at Whittier Field and Hubbard Hall. It was designed as three buildings within a building, intended to house chemistry, biology and physics separately. In fact, you had to exit the building to pass from one science to the next, the opposite of the thinking behind Druckenmiller, which is meant to encourage interaction among disciplines.
Vaughan chose yellow brick for the exterior, which was painted red in a 1950s renovation. By then, chemistry had moved to Cleaveland Hall, and Searles was renovated to open the building’s interior. Interior "bridges" were built between the wings, but the second floor was 3.5 feet higher than the first, and the third was seven feet higher than that. This made for a lot of short staircases and odd landings.
Searles was completely gutted last year, and now houses physics, math, computer science and the Baldwin Center for Learning and Teaching. All interior walls were removed except for the load-bearing masonry walls.
The loading dock was moved to the north side of the building, below grade. In its place, a modern atrium was built with a lead-coated copper exterior. The "rear" of the building now serves as a second front on Park Row, part of the College’s continuing effort to avoid construction that turns its back on Brunswick.
But the true beauty of this building is in the details.
The floor tiles in the computer labs form graphic depictions of mathematical formulas. "Floating ceilings" allow room for overhead ventilation ducts but don’t extend as far as the walls, so they don’t obscure the massive windows. A new 96-seat lecture hall looks more like a concert hall, with its bare chestnut trusses and painted chestnut wainscoting on the ceiling. And bare chestnut trusses and wainscoting adorn the ceiling of the Intro. to Physics lab.
Finally, to those who wrote "Save the Whale" on the painting of a whale that had adorned Room 313: You succeeded. The painting remains, according to the contractor, but it is covered by a series of blackboards.
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