Bridge for Laboratory Sciences, Vassar College, Integrated Science Commons

Bridge For Laboratory Sciences Aerial © Lrc Group

Bridge for Laboratory Sciences, Vassar College, Integrated Science Commons

The newly completed Integrated Science Commons redefines the identity of the sciences, establishing a coherent science precinct on Vassar’s arcadian campus. Its focus is the Bridge Building, which is a transformative connector, physically connecting the sciences and the Vassar community with the surrounding wetlands.

As architects we think about how people experience our buildings. It is important to engage and propel the user along a journey. The curvilinear design creates a sense of discovery as the views unfold – both in to the sciences and out to the landscape.

Richard Olcott, Design Partner
Bridge For Laboratory Sciences Interior Cafe © Richard Barnes

An outgrowth of a programming and needs analysis of all Science Departments at the College, the project consolidates scientific disciplines that had previously been dispersed in facilities across campus.

Bridge For Laboratory Sciences Southeast Exterior Detail © Lrc Group Copy

The two-story curved form of the new building meanders through the woods, seamlessly integrated with the natural landscape, scale and campus aesthetic of the College. Its curved interior passageway provides panoramic views of the natural landscape below, while creating a central corridor for student activity.

It is a conduit, drawing students through it and providing an efficient route between the campus core and remote parking. 

Bridge For Laboratory Sciences Raymond Avenue Entrance © Richard Barnes

The Bridge building straddles the surrounding wetlands, with two concrete piers on either side of Fonteyn Kill stream supporting a truss which spans the ravine. In turn, the floors of the building are hung, creating a lightweight and open structure, thereby minimizing the building’s impact on the natural landscape underneath.

Bridge For Laboratory Sciences Detail Southeast Exterior © Richard Barnes
Bridge For Laboratory Sciences Northwest Elevation  © Ennead Architects Copy
Bridge For Laboratory Sciences Exterior© Richard Barnes
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Clad in fiber cement and stone, the building’s façade is inspired by the dense, tree-lined landscape. The Bridge incorporates a number of innovative façade features designed to minimize bird collisions, including a fritted glass curtainwall and largest application of Ornilux glass in the United States to date.

Bridge For Laboratory Sciences Interior View Bird Friendly Glass Frit View To Trees © Ennead Architects
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Scroll over the section for the sustainability features.

Bridge For Laboratory Sciences Interior Lobby © Richard Barnes

New facilities center on multi-disciplinary laboratories and program suites to foster collaboration between departments, researchers and students from different fields of study. In addition, sustainable design elements encourage the science departments to use the building as a didactic research and teaching tool.

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Completing the Integrated Science Commons, the historic New England and Sanders Physics, which house offices, classrooms and dry labs, have been completely renovated. Olmsted Hall for Biological Sciences, which houses the Biology Department, shared classrooms and a vivarium, has been partially renovated.

Bridge For Laboratory Sciences Terrace At Dusk © Richard Barnes


Poughkeepsie, NY
157,000 GSF
Laboratories, Classrooms, Offices, Administration Spaces, Lecture Halls, Shared Public Spaces, Café
LEED Silver


Ennead Design Team
Richard Olcott, Timothy Hartung, V. Guy Maxwell, Kate Mann, Todd Walbourn, Theresa O'Leary, Charmian Place, Kathleen Kulpa, Christina Ciardullo, Edgar Jimenez, Hiroko Nakatani, Tom Offord, Yong Roh, Suzanne Troiano, Constance Vale, Hans Walter, Desiree Wong
Jacobs Consultancy, GPR Planners Collaborative
Photography / Videography
Richard Barnes, Karl Rabe/Vassar College, Aislinn Weidele/Ennead Architects, Spirit of Space/Small Stuff