Founded in 1883, the Department of Biochemistry at the University of Wisconsin is built on a foundation of important breakthroughs that have shaped our molecular understanding of basic biological problems including discoveries of Vitamin A, the Vitamin B complex, and the irradiation process for production of Vitamin D.
As the department has expanded in both size and influence, so too have its facilities and the very nature of the program, embracing an ever-widening diversity of areas and organisms. In recognition of this interdisciplinary emphasis, today the research and instructional buildings on the Biochemical Sciences Complex bring together undergraduates, graduate students, and staff from several departments in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences and the Medical School.
The complex includes laboratories for 20 research groups, teaching auditoria, smaller classrooms, instructional laboratories, administrative space, several collaboration spaces including a café, a variety of specialized equipment and support facilities, and an office and data center for the national nuclear magnetic resonance structural database initiative. In response to a perpetual shortage of instructional space for the department, nearly 25 percent of the program is allocated for state-of-the-art lecture halls and teaching labs.
The new large research tower is a feature of the reconfigured complex. Fit into a dense urban site, it was carefully crafted to respect this notable area of campus, maintain a scale and materials palette that fit within the context of the close surrounding historic structures, and increase campus circulation, both through and around the buildings. As a gesture to the clay tile roofs on the oldest buildings, the tower is clad in a terra-cotta rain screen and sun-shading system, successfully incorporating both aesthetic and sustainable design principles.
In addition to building the new tower, several buildings of historic significance to the department were restored and renovated as part of this project. A re-established pedestrian path and paved courtyard connects adjacent Henry Mall to the complex, restoring the original vision of the 1908 Peabody, Laird and Cret master plan of the University of Wisconsin campus. And the entire project was carefully constructed around a beloved, and nearly two centuries old, American Elm tree.
It is with a great deal of pride that this modern department honors its roots but also looks forward to what discoveries are possible in the next 100 years.