EXP, Northeastern University’s dynamic eight-story center for science, engineering and computational research, is on track to open in Fall 2023.
Rising alongside the complementary Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering Complex (ISEC), the new 357,000-square foot facility will create opportunities to further the horizons of science, engineering, teaching and creating.
“It will be an exciting, busy place, bubbling with intellectual activity,” says David Madigan, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs at Northeastern. “It will also serve as a welcome mat to our neighbors on that side of the campus and encourage interactions with our neighbors.”
EXP is actively seeking a collaboration with a community business leader to operate its café, says Kathy Spiegelman, Northeastern’s vice president of campus planning.
Many of EXP’s floors are divided into four neighborhoods, enabling specializations for teaching, maker spaces, biology, chemistry, dry labs and other computational disciplines. Those quadrants are lined with soft spaces—kitchenettes, meeting rooms and lounges—where collaboration can take place.
These seams of learning, accessorized with the conveniences of technology, marker boards and comfortable furniture, are important drivers that will empower EXP to help fulfill Northeastern’s academic plan, Experience Unleashed, that leverages interdisciplinary networks to open new horizons of learning.
“It’s a modern space that facilitates highly collaborative work,” Madigan says. “And that is what the academic plan is all about.”
The development of EXP is helping to drive Northeastern’s commitment to recruiting 500 full-time, research-engaged faculty members over the next five years.
“We may end up hiring quite a lot more than that,” Madigan says.Versatility has been built into EXP with the understanding that needs are bound to change. Lessons learned from the successful development of ISEC have inspired Payette, the architect of both buildings, to include infrastructure that will enable dry labs to be converted to wet labs.
On any day in the leadup to the project’s completion, more than 300 workers can be found building the site based on the detailed plans—a foot-thick volume of oversized drawings and specifications that have enabled the contractor, Suffolk Construction, to maintain momentum despite the COVID-19 pandemic.
“An academic research and teaching building is one of the more complex building types,” says Jeremy Munn, program director for planning, real estate, and facilities at Northeastern. “It’s like a hospital with all the infrastructure that’s needed—a lot of fresh air, substantial electrical requirements, specialized gasses and chemical waste systems, all components to support research. Academic science and engineering space need to be especially flexible because research is always changing.”
EXP’s gray walls and floors of finished concrete will burnish the center with an “industrial chic” aesthetic. Its stainless steel exterior facade panels are playful horizontal fins that will be opened to supply light for social settings—or shuttered for those rooms where research demands dimmer conditions.
The building’s centerpiece is a circular staircase that spirals up to the seventh story, where a skylight fills the vertical corridor with natural ambiance.
As much as EXP prioritizes utility, its top floor promises to provide a new campus destination based on its open-air roof garden overlooking Columbus Avenue. That welcoming space and the nearby faculty club are served by a large multipurpose space that can be adapted for everything from board meetings to award presentations to art exhibits.
The building prioritizes efficiency with three main points of entry. Come in via the front doors at 815 Columbus Avenue and you will be welcomed by a two-story high bay space offering a full view of students and faculty operating a large robotic crane for state-of-the-art projects (which may be viewed from the street as well).
Another first-floor entrance is served by the plaza, enabling a quick 50-foot walk to ISEC for a class or a meeting with peer researchers.
And then there is the access from the pedestrian bridge––currently fenced off until next summer—which will carry students directly to the second story of EXP, where classrooms and a large student maker space will be located. The hallways and stairwells served by the bridge have been widened to help prevent pedestrian backups during the changeovers between classes.
“The pedestrian bridge to that side of campus has opened up a whole new wing of the university,” Madigan says. “It’s all very cool to see.”