Science building to wear several hats

A new science building at the University of Wisconsin-Baraboo/Sauk County would be sunk into the ground, preserving the view of the Baraboo Hills and creating a new outdoor venue for the arts.

Representatives of Bray Architects unveiled their design plans for the new facility — a $4.6 million collaboration between Sauk County and the City of Baraboo — during a meeting Monday night at the campus.

“Preserving those views was key to our design,” said Michael Hacker, an engineer and associate with Bray Architects. “You will still be able to see those beautiful Baraboo hills in the distance.”

The new building — which will replace labs from the 1960s — will sink into a hill on the south side of the campus, which will allow for greater insulation and sustainable energy strategies. Its special glass windowed lobby will allow natural light to spill down into the building.

The outside of the partially underground facility will provide a platform for outdoor concerts and plays, as well as a gathering place for students. The area can continue to be used to host the college’s graduation ceremony.

The building will include an adjustable indoor community room that can serve a variety of purposes, including use as a meeting space for students or community organizations.

The current design provides access to the outdoor venue through underground tunnels and an elevator system, which would be accessed through the building. Baraboo City Alderman Eugene Robkin said that would make the area unreachable for people with disabilities during weekends, when campus buildings are locked.

UW-BSC Assistant Campus Dean for Administration and Finance David Armstrong said if there are students with special needs, campus officials can make adjustments to ensure they have access to the building on weekends.

Hacker said although a stairway leading out to the performance area is too steep to convert into a ramp for wheelchairs, it may be possible to curve the path and make the incline more gradual. He said designers will revisit the issue and find a solution.

Sauk County Supervisor John Miller of Baraboo commended campus officials and the architectural firm for preserving one of the campus’ staples, its view of the Baraboo Hills.

“It’s not the Rocky Mountains, and it’s not the Grand Canyon, but it’s lovely,” Miller said.

In 2005, campus and local government officials began work on a long-term vision for the college and its facilities. That plan already has produced expanded parking, new tennis courts, a refurbished lecture hall, and a new dormitory, which is expected to open in August.

UW-BSC Dean Tom Pleger called the design innovative and inspirational, and said it would help the campus recruit students with an interest in science. He said the project was a true partnership between the university, city and county.

“I think it is a very exciting design that will not only serve our science needs but will also add indoor and outdoor space for community and campus events,” Pleger said.

If all goes as planned, Pleger said construction on the science facility would begin in August and it would be completed by fall of 2015.

Baraboo News Republic
Publication Date: 
Tuesday, May 13, 2014