Full Description Designed by international design and architecture firm Perkins Eastman, The Simons Center for Geometry and Physics is a unique, environmentally sustainable five-story academic building located on the Stony Brook University campus. Started with a gift from the Simons Foundation, the striking 39,000 sf facility houses a unique population: postdoctoral positions and visitors in residence focused on geometry and theoretical physics. With a strong vision to propel mathematics and physics at Stony Brook into the international arena, the design team took cues from prominent research institutions and innovative companies that share similar functions in interdisciplinary thinking, collaboration, and research.
A collaborative research center for visiting and permanent faculty members, the Simons Center for Geometry and Physics attracts scientists and researchers in theoretical mathematics and physics from around the globe. The Centers primary purpose is to provide a place for the highest-level thinkers in the fields of geometry and theoretical physics to think, work, and collaborate. Unlike adjacent buildings, the new Center building will be used primarily by faculty members, post-doctoral and graduate students. To that end, the program provides faculty offices and discussion spaces, but not much instructional space.
The new facility, in concept and function, represents the convergence of cutting-edge ideas between geometry and physics that have greatly developed in recent years. Its main goals are to create a dynamic environment for interaction, academic study, and collaboration among the two schools of thought, providing a crossroads that pushes the boundaries of science.
The idea that this building be smart from a sustainable, architectural, and programmatic perspective was essential from day one. Programmatic elements include a 250-person lecture hall/auditorium, office space, seminar rooms, a multi-story atrium, and open discussion areas. A pedestrian bridge adjoins the new center with the existing math tower and physics building, enabling access to all areas of study. One of the masses is the brick bar on the north side, which relates to the existing brick buildings adjacent to the site and provides a second side to an existing plaza to the north. The brick bar houses the permanent faculty offices as well as the shared spaces such as the conference room and tea room/lounge. The second mass is the curved glass structure that creates a more open mass houses the smaller visiting faculty offices. The interior atrium was created in the space left between these two geometric forms and is lit with large south-facing clerestory windows at the roof level. This soaring interior space spatially and metaphorically encourages the collaborative process to which the Centers mission is dedicated, while providing natural daylighting throughout that is reflected off the curved ceilings at the top floor.
One of the main influences on the overall proportions of the new structure was a programmatic requirement that the top level of offices be connected to the fifth and sixth floors of the Math Tower via a bridge. The bulk of the program, which consists of visiting faculty, permanent faculty and directors office space as well as the attendant common space and discussion areas, is located 30 or more off the plaza level. The remainder of the program elementsa 250-seat auditorium, a large seminar room, the main entrance lobby, an exhibition gallery and a cafare located in the lower three stories of the building. As the nexus for the schools program, the building itself is a prominent, technologically sophisticated mark on the campus that employs sustainable strategies to achieve LEED Gold certification.
Even in the details the Center reflects its unique population. For example, the lower plaza elegantly features Penrose tiling, the installation of which was aided by a math professor. During conversations with the Centers mathematicians, the design team learned about this unique decorative pattern, the defining properties of which allow for only two tile shapes but the pattern itself never repeats.
Chalkboards punctuate offices, breakout spaces–even corridors–providing for both deliberate and spontaneous opportunities to work out complex equations. Even the room name plates are small chalkboards, underscoring that this is a shared environment.
Additionally, the Simons Center contains an Art and Science outreach program to connect artists and scientists and to enhance the intellectual life of the Center and the larger Stony Brook campus community. Working at the intersection of engineering and geometry, Chuck Hoberman was commissioned to create a custom piece to serve as the inaugural collaboration. Perkins Eastman also worked with Hoberman to design window screens that operate both as an art piece and solar shading in the lobby.