Science and Learning Center takes a Modern Twist

Lexi Valenzuela

Light spills in from the glass windows, illuminating the hallways and bouncing off the walls as project manager John Best opens the side door to the Science and Learning Center (SLC). After initial pre-design, fundraising and construction, the newly renovated 88,667 square foot center science building opened for classes Sept. 7.

While the new building was given a planned project budget of 52.5 million, the estimated building costs were 35.5 million. “The College wanted to make a real improvement to science education as they see it important to campus life,” said Best while leading the way into the first floor hall. “This building is more than science education because as I understand it, from the information we collected, almost everybody who goes to school here attends a class in here at one time or another. This is a really important building and place to be on campus.”

Construction of the SLC officially began May 14 2015 and continued well into September. Although much of the building has been completely renovated, the frame of the building is the same. “We realized that Whittier College didn’t want to buy more land, they didn’t have any more land [and] they didn’t have a spare building laying around,” Best said smiling.  

“Their resources were limited so the answer that emerged was to take this building apart and see if we could reuse it. The design that the architects came up with is interestingly the same square footage that it was before but it’s a totally new building. It’s a totally new design [and] totally new layout.”

The buzz of construction drills and shrill shrieks of metal whirring faded as Best stepped inside the massive building in which several lab rooms and lounges lay. The completely renovated science building features spacious classrooms used for various purposes along with offices for professors of different disciplines, encouraging collaboration among different subjects. Each flight of stairs are painted a specific color; gold, purple and teal.

“There’s a lot more windows and a lot more lighting,” Physics and French Double Major Senior Hunter Alexander said. “The hallways are [full glass] ; that’s a cool change [because] it brings in more of that light. [The old building] felt more secluded in a way too, it was much more segregated, there is a lot more collaboration between the departments and the lounges look like they’ll encourage students to collaborate more.”

The roof of the Science and Learning Center’s also contains classroom spaces. “No one was allowed on the fifth floor [of the old building] because it was roof access and strictly for maintenance, I believe,”says WSP major and senior Noelle Leczel. “I love the new building. I am more of a humanities major and don't have many classes in the SCL but the two I have there I love. The environment is much brighter [too].” Within the building there is a gender safe bathroom as well.

“I thought it was a very big improvement from the last building, [a] more modern, very sleek look and it feels like it’s going to be a great place for students to come together,” Alexander said. “The aesthetics look amazing, I just can’t wait to have a class in there.”

Professors are as equally enthusiastic about the new science center. “The SLC provides the entire campus with 17 general purpose, state-of-the-art classrooms,” says Physics professor Seamus Lagan. “All of these classrooms have the latest audio and visual capabilities. Three of them in particular are what we have termed “immersive” classrooms with movable tables, movable chairs, multiple projectors and white-walls on which one can write with dry-erase pens. The multiple projectors provide students the opportunity to connect their laptops to the projectors and show their work on the wall, as they work in groups, for instance.”

   The SLC also has several lounge areas located within the building, complete with tables, couches and television sets. “Throughout the building there are study-lounge areas where students can relax, work alone or work in groups. We hope that all students, not just science majors, will make use of these study areas. All are welcome.”

Although there are still parts of the building undergoing construction, students have marveled at the transparent walls and spiral staircase, admiring the technological advancements and spacious hallways.