Westminster two steps closer to new science center
Meldrum Foundation pledged a $5.5 million donation for the project
The Salt Lake Tribune
By Brian Maffly
April, 11, 2008
The final piece in Westminster College's plan to develop its campus reached crucial milestones this week with approval from the Salt Lake City Planning Commission for a proposed four-story science building and a major gift to help pay for the $25 million project.
Westminster officials on Thursday announced a $5.5 million donation from the Meldrum Foundation to go toward the 60,000-square-foot lab facility on the private liberal arts college's 31-building Sugar House campus. Peter Meldrum, president and chief executive of Salt Lake City's Myriad Genetics, started the foundation with his wife, Cathie.
"You can learn science by reading textbooks and being lectured to, but you can't understand science unless you practice the science," Meldrum said. "You have the great faculty and dedicated students, but you also need a facility that is conducive to that kind of learning so you can put to practice what you learn."
The building will house faculty offices and 14 laboratories. The college is raising money for a $5 million endowment to fund operation of the center, where chemistry, biology, physics and geology will be studied.
"It's designed to create multidisciplinary dialogue between the various sciences. Each thinks about problems in a different way. If you can encourage dialogue it can improve the learning experience," said Meldrum, a University of Utah alumnus who is a Westminster trustee and chaired the college's science building task force.
The new science center will bear the Meldrum name and be the capstone of the college's 10-year campus master plan, said Michael Bassis, president of the 2,600-student college. In the master plan adopted in 2000, Westminster outlined recommendations for 18 existing and proposed buildings on its tightly packed 27-acre campus.
On Wednesday city planners approved a height variance for the science center that allows Westminster to build the 73-foot structure, far in excess of a 35-foot restriction normally imposed in the historic residential area. The center will sit between equally tall historic buildings, Converse and Foster halls, on land currently occupied by tennis courts and a climbing wall. Officials plan to break ground as early as June.
Lead architect Derek Payne said the project presented the most challenging design problems he's ever encountered. The building is to reflect and accommodate science functions, win Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification, and remain compatible with surrounding structures, which include the century-old masonry Converse Hall, the college's original building.
"We've chosen to take visual cues and references from the neighboring historic buildings, said Payne, a partner with the Salt Lake City firm VCBO Architecture. Accordingly, the science center will have a peaked roof element reminiscent of Converse's crenellated gables. But it will also incorporate both glass and brick on its exterior. The building's transparency will help secure LEED certification because the vast windows and a central skylight will flood its atrium with natural light, thereby reducing electrical needs, Payne told city planners. Mounted above the penthouse covering the building's mechanical systems will be a 20-kilowatt photovoltaic array and the roof will collect storm water for flushing toilets.