Microbial Sciences Building At University of Wisconsin

CO Architects designed the Microbial Sciences Building to provide an inviting, stimulating work environment with world-class research and instruction facilities. Different sections within the new building are linked through two large connecting atria, full of natural light, off of which are teaching and meeting spaces. The atria also provide a public thoroughfare for people traversing the site. The route from one end of the building to the other represents a significant elevation change that was addressed by a series of gently ramped stairs that add a sense of activity and motion to the facility.

Microbial Sciences Building most prominently features grand public spaces, located to take advantage of principle circulation paths, or streets, that preserve and enhance existing campus pedestrian patterns. The fact that the main street is open to all ensures that this place belongs not just to the researchers, but to teachers, students, and the campus as a whole. A caf and meeting areas placed throughout the atria for spontaneous or planned meetings further emphasize this intention.

Leading from the atria to upper floors are sweeping, gently sloped stairways, literally suspended in space. Though never intended to replace the elevators, the stairways proved so inviting that regulars are often seen climbing several stories, along with newcomers enjoying the sensation of climbing stairs in mid-air. Booths for up to four people, wired for power and data, are strategically located at stairway landings to accommodate chance meetings. Other circulation routes high in the atria, with wonderful views, are fitted with built-in seats. Conference rooms and break areas are all located off circulation paths, and gathering areas opposite the elevator bank provide additional venues for meetings and discussions. Larger gathering and seating areas are located at the bottom of the atria, and are outfitted with lounge seating and tables and chairs.

The buildings location in the historic core of the campus determined the materials, massing, and faade. The building takes its place with confident equanimity among architectural neighbors, and does not scream out for attention. Though the Microbial Sciences Building is contextually large at 330,000 square feet, CO Architects took advantage of necessary articulationto accommodate the historic hall, the oak tree, the electrical substation and existing walkwaysto achieve an unobtrusive massing that breaks up the scale and minimizes the buildings size.

Sustainable standards include daylighting, a roof garden, recycled-content materials, building systems commissioning, construction waste management, certified woods, zoned HVAC control systems, sun shading, and fixture sensors.


Project Type


1550 Linden Drive, Madison, 53706,