Regents Hall encourages interaction among the science disciplines by intermixing formal and informal gathering spaces, student study spaces and offices throughout the facility. Rather than having a traditional, departmental organization, the layout of Regents Hall focuses on interdisciplinary study. Classrooms, labs and offices are all arranged according to purpose instead of departmental affiliation, meaning that many of the teaching and research spaces can be shared between fields. The Department of Biology, for example, is on three different floors and two wings, enhancing interactions and collaborations with each department in the natural sciences and allowing faculty to focus on where their disciplines intersect.
The building’s center features a beautiful glass atrium with views out in three directions. A number of informal gathering spaces extend learning beyond the classroom and laboratory. These areas, especially those along the corridors and at the building’s corners, are intended to encourage individual reflection and study as well as communal activities. The building also has a greenhouse, an accessible green roof, a science library, and a second floor café where students and faculty may mingle.
Regents Hall provides flexible-seating classrooms, tiered lecture rooms, integrated/shared teaching and research spaces while consolidating the disciplines of biology, chemistry, physics, psychology and mathematics. The design incorporates specialized spaces for anatomy/neuro-anatomy and animal facilities, and laboratories for optics, computational physics, physiology, genetics, microbiology/immunology, synthetic and analytical chemistry and biochemistry. On another level, it embraces the notion of “building as teacher,” crafting the physical layout to promote interaction between peers and departments, and fostering interdisciplinary study.
Innovative approaches to teaching can be found on every floor and in every discipline, such as in the Plant Morphology class where lecture and lab are blurred, or the chemical plant model in analytical chemistry where students take on different roles in an industrial laboratory.
- 2 West is where psychology and biology students interested in neuroscience, vertebrate and developmental biology use humans and animals as their focus of study.
- 3 East is the wing for biomolecular science, as the chemistry and biology faculty and students share one large research space and state-of-the-art research equipment to study biological questions at the molecular or cellular scale.
- 4 West houses evolutionary and ecosystem level biologists and analytical chemistry. The research labs flow one into another and the formal learning spaces include large and small classrooms, the computational room and the ecology and analytical chemistry labs. Here, precise chemical measurements and a suite of information technology come together, enabling students to address big questions, from microevolution of fishes and the paleoecology of grasslands to biogeochemical cycles in terrestrial and aquatic habitats.
Carefully designed around St. Olaf College’s distinctive curriculum in the natural and mathematical sciences and the way the sciences are taught today, Regents Hall of Natural and Mathematical Sciences is the optimal facility for firmly establishing the college as a national leader in undergraduate science education.