The Harrisburg University of Science and Technology is the first independent science and technology-focused, non-profit, university to be established in Pennsylvania in more than 100 years. The University was created to address the Capital Region’s need for increased educational opportunities in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) careers. The Academic Center is 373,713 gross square feet, 16 stories including: Classrooms, Laboratories, Administration, Faculty Offices and a conference center. In addition the Academic Center houses a 7-story parking structure that is nestled between the ground floor and the Academic floors. Located on a downtown Harrisburg corner, the site afforded the University the opportunity to create stronger ties to the city and leverage the existing services within the downtown area.
It was important to the team to create a building that would be an iconic expression for the University and the City of Harrisburg. To accomplish this, the team developed a massing strategy that respected the contextual scale of the city by breaking down the massive structure to a scale consistent with its neighbors. To achieve this, the teams choose to use precast concrete in various applications. Large precast monoliths provide visual support for the cantilevered roof structure, in addition to containing the elevator towers. Utilizing large precast panels the team was able to create the relatively joint less monolithic towers that house the building core elements. Unlike a traditional high rise, the Center design pulls the building core elements to the perimeter. The resulting massing firmly roots the building while providing an abundance of open “learning commons” space, integrating ample natural lighting and providing great views of the city. This monolithic look would have not been possible with other materials.
At the garage level precast was used to enclose the garage floors, the panels doubled as barriers eliminating the need for additional barrier systems. Attached to the garage precast a decorative screen that conceals the parking garage floors - its design, a syncopated overlay of perforated metal screen elements is inspired by DNA maps, and hints at the digital aspirations of the institution that built it, allows for natural ventilation of the garage. The screen is attached to the precast by integrating the structural connection points into and through the precast panels. This marriage of screen and precast mimics the bay structure of the neighboring buildings. On the upper floors, articulated precast panels and continuous ribbon windows are used to incorporate contextual materials and to mimic its larger neighbors.
While the building respects its surroundings, massing decisions, façade articulation, and a distinctive roof profile set the building apart from its neighbors, helping to provide the iconic home the University sought. The design team strived to stay faithful to the aspirations of the University, helping to create an iconic presence on the Harrisburg skyline, while rooting the University firmly in the vibrant street life of downtown Harrisburg. The use of precast concrete helped make that vision a reality.