The design for the Koch Center for Science, Math and Technology grew out of Deerfield Academy146;s commitment to become a leader in the education of young scientists and engineers; an objective that former headmaster 1994-2006 Eric Widmer described as the most ambitious and visionary project in the school146;s 210 year history.
Using the scientific method as a model, the program emerged from an extensive research and data collection process that involved Deerfield146;s faculty and students in collaboration with architects, educators, alumni and experts in the fields of art and science. They sought to answer an age old problem: how to create a 147;teaching building148; that would contain all the technological necessities of contemporary study for the math and sciences while also expressing the wonder of its subject matter.
In developing this intelligent science building, the interdisciplinary educational opportunity was maximized through the co-location of three academic disciplines science, mathematics technology. Exploration of light emerged as a theme. In collaboration with artist James Turrell, a language that related interior functional requirements with exterior architectural expressions was created. By extending the architecture into the landscape, the two become unified: building walls become site retaining walls. Program spaces are filled in between the walls, stepping down towards their ends and forming a terraced green landscape with garden roofs throughout. The greatest example of this integrating approach is the main common space: a hole penetrates the building, permitting the analemma pattern of the sun to be projected onto the north brick wall of the Commons, demonstrating the elliptical and axial movement of the earth on its yearly orbit about the sun. Starfields of the northern and southern hemispheres for the year 2040 illuminate the ceiling and floor.
The success of the project was in making the building146;s program the essence of its architecture. Ultimately, the process became less about designing a building and more about designing a program from which an architectural concept would evolve. It is both a flexible container for scientific inquiry and a scientific instrument itself.