Bringing the Outdoors In: Doors Officially Open to Papadakis Integrated Sciences Building
October 3, 2011 — As you’ve surely heard—or seen—the College of Arts and Sciences’ new Papadakis Integrated Sciences Building has officially opened at the corner of 33rd and Chestnut Streets. Home to North America’s largest living biowall (and the only wall of its kind in a U.S. university), the Silver LEED-certified PISB is an impressive structure from top to bottom.
The landmark facility is named in honor of Drexel’s 12th president, Dr. Constantine N. Papadakis. During his tenure, Dr. Papadakis recognized the need for greater space to serve the biomedical sciences, a field that quickly flourished after the University’s merger with the College of Medicine. This growth was felt acutely by the Department of Biology, whose enrollment numbers have increased exponentially over the last decade: from 50 incoming freshmen in 2000 to 265 in 2010.
The burgeoning department celebrated their new home in the PISB along with over 600 members of the Drexel community at the grand opening and dedication of the building on September 20, 2011.
Undergraduate Sarah Michelson spoke on behalf of fellow biological science students.
“[The PISB] is certainly an upgrade from Stratton Hall, whose laboratories have become outdated and cramped with the rising number of science students,” said Michelson. “In Stratton, many lab courses were scheduled back-to-back in the same room, leaving little time for instructors to prepare between classes. In turn, students lost valuable instruction time and were often shuffled out quickly.”
As for the department’s new home, Michelson added: “I believe that the Papadakis Integrated Sciences Building will have an immediate effect on the quality of education for biology students. New lecture halls and an increased number of teaching labs will allow for more flexible class scheduling.”
The 150,000 square-foot building, designed by world-renowned architects Diamond & Schmitt and executed by Turner Construction, houses 44 research and teaching laboratories for biology, chemistry and biomedical engineering. The focal point of the atrium is the 22-foot wide, 80-foot tall living biowall, designed by Nedlaw Living Walls and maintained by Parker Plants. (Learn more about the health benefits of the biowall and its role in Drexel research.)
Biology research faculty, whose work ranges from biodiversity conservation to cancer and Alzheimer’s research, each have a lab in the building that is equipped with the latest technology (not to mention some of the best views of University City). In Dr. Ken Lacovara’s specially designed fossil lab, students are already back to work piecing together the most complete skeleton of a supermassive dinosaur (the fruits of Lacovara’s five-year Patagonian expedition).
In addition to the laboratories, the essence of the PISB—a place for faculty and students to interact, to discuss and discover—can be felt in the open atrium, in the “collaboratories” on the second, third, and fourth floors, and in the brightly lit classrooms and lecture halls.
“It was a five-year odyssey that resulted in this magnificent building. However, what is more important now is the journey that begins today within this new structure,” said Dr. Donna Murasko, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, at the grand opening. “We now have research facilities that reflect the true value of our current faculty and allow our students to learn in state-of-the-art classrooms and teaching labs. We now have space to grow to provide sufficient research experiences for undergraduates and to attract higher caliber faculty to mentor them. This building visibly signifies that Drexel has turned a new page and that it has truly become the gateway for the sciences in Philadelphia.”
Murasko thanked a number of people for their role in completing the building: former provost Judith Pitney, late biology department head Dr. Mary K. Howett, current head of biology Dr. Jeffery Twiss, and, most pointedly, Dr. Aleister Saunders, whom she referred to as the “voice of the College” throughout the process.
Saunders, associate professor and associate department head of biology, also spoke at the PISB opening and remarked on his initial shock at being asked to represent the College to the architects, the construction company and to Drexel’s own facilities department.
"The renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright said that a building’s ‘form and function should be one, joined in spiritual union.’ Although I may have had my doubts as to my fitness to serve in this role, the administration was acting from greater wisdom,” said Saunders. “I was asked to join the team because the administration knew that for this building to succeed, users needed to be integral to the process from start to finish. If Mr. Wright were to spend a day with us here, I believe he would agree that this building is a shining and elegant example of the union of form and function.”
The evening concluded with faculty-led tours of the building and individual ribbon-cutting ceremonies in the spaces that have already been named by Drexel’s beloved alumni and friends. Learn more about how you can support this impressive building and the work that takes place within it.
Visit the following Flickr pages to view photos of the building and the grand opening. Photos by Sean Corbett.
Grand Opening & Dedication »
Watch the construction progress »
View the biowall installation »