Neural and Behavioral Sciences Building


CENTER OF COLLABORATION: By the time students set foot on campus in the fall of 2016, Penn will have two reimagined entrances at opposite corners. To the northeast: The New College House on Hill Field. And to the southwest: the Neural and Behavioral Sciences (NBS) Building, which will serve as the center of collaboration between the converging disciplines of biology and psychology.

A NEW ‘NEIGHBORHOOD’: The NBS Building will sit between the Leidy Labs at 3740 Hamilton Walk and the Carolyn Lynch Labs at 433 South University Ave., creating what Richard Schultz, associate dean for the natural sciences in the School of Arts & Sciences (SAS), calls a “neighborhood” of life science learning, teaching, and research. The idea is to create a space where serendipitous meetings lead to new discoveries, and interdisciplinary collaboration is encouraged by a shared facility. “What doesn’t make sense is that faculty sit in departments and sit in lab space that is literally walled off,” Schultz says. “Faculty who share common research interests [will be] in close physical proximity to each other. … Faculty will be sitting where it makes the most sense.”

EARLY DAYS: Schultz says the project was first proposed at a faculty meeting in 1994. Faculty from both disciplines crafted a value statement before the project was even put out to bid to underscore the reason for such an undertaking, as well as some of the amenities desired in an interdisciplinary building. “It was a way to [have] the two intended occupants and disciplines in the building talk about how their sciences were converging and what being under one roof might do for them and their students,” says University Architect David Hollenberg. “[It] was a touchstone throughout the whole design process.”

POPULAR CHOICE: Approximately 25 percent of undergraduates in the College of Arts & Sciences major in either biology, psychology, or Biological Basis of Behavior (BBB). SAS Dean Steven J. Fluharty says the NBS Building will consolidate education in these disciplines and house the BBB program, as well as the Vagelos Life Sciences & Management program. “Neuroscience is clearly one of Penn’s distinguishing strengths. … and Arts & Sciences has always been a major contributor to that University-wide excellence,” says Fluharty. “In order to continue to build, we need world-class facilities.”

WHAT’S INSIDE: The six-story NBS Building—which will be at least LEED Silver, as are all new building projects at Penn—will house research laboratories, teaching facilities, and plenty of space for students to congregate and study. Hollenberg says public space will run along the south end of the building, with teaching and offices to the north. The southern side of the building will also have a white mesh metal screen overlay, which is both a striking design element on the façade, and an environmentally friendly way to shield the windows from the sun.

GREEN VIEW: The NBS Building will feature a green roof—ripe with teaching and learning possibilities—and also respect the close connection some biology faculty have to the James G. Kaskey Memorial Garden, also known as the Biopond. “The space you see there now also created a link to the Kaskey Garden from University Avenue,” says Chris Kern, director of design and construction in Facilities and Real Estate Services. “That was one of their themes that they were trying to preserve: increasing access to the garden, making it more visible and accessible to the broader community.”

CREATING HUBS: Fluharty says the new NBS Building will create important gathering spaces for students, from lounges to a coffee shop. “We want to foster as much cross-talk as we can,” he says. “This is really an epicenter of what Arts & Sciences will do.”

Originally published on March 13, 2014