BBS Architects Engineers

Science Center of Iowa

Architectural Design Services: Zimmer Gunsul Frasca Partnership
Engineering Design Services: BBS Architects | Engineers
Project Data: 110,000 SF 
Construction Cost: $24,000,000 
Construction Completed: 2005

With a clear vision to “engage and inspire,” the Science Center of Iowa embarked on a process to provide a one-of-a-kind experience for children and adults. This vision and a well articulated pre-design programming process set the stage for the design team to create a facility for informal science learning. A downtown site in the heart of a rapidly developing entertainment/ residential/retail district provides a highly visible, easily accessible destination. The main building entrance is on axis with a downtown street and is further enhanced by a historic arched structural bridge frame over the street.

The entry experience is structured to inform visitors as they gradually proceed from ticketing and orientation to experience platforms. While individually selecting a desired exhibit experience, the visitors learn the concept that science is all around us and that science is something we can do every day. The exhibit environments have themes which include; Small Discoveries, Who Are We, When Things Get Moving, Why the Sky, and What on Earth.

The shape of the architecture was chosen to communicate the informal nature of the learning found within. A high sweeping curvilinear ceiling caps the lobby space and expresses the dynamic feeling of discovery. Two theaters, a large format film theater and a star theater are enclosed in metal clad cylindrical volumes and are clearly expressed on the outside. Exterior materials of terra cotta and brick are opened up in critical locations by glass curtainwall, for daylighting and full visibility of the retail, café, educational, and office spaces.

BBS provided structural, electrical, mechanical, plumbing engineering, and construction administration services to the team led by the Zimmer Gunsul Frasca Partnership.

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