The Roux Center for the Environment provides a greatly expanded platform for environmental studies at a college set in rural Maine. This new 29,000 SF interdisciplinary building features an ensemble of flexible classrooms, laboratories, research labs, faculty offices and unstructured learning spaces. A glassy, tiered space known as the Lantern hosts lectures for 150 people, informal gatherings, and serves as a focal point for the entire campus community.
Transparency, both physical and pedagogical, enables a clearer engagement of teaching, learning and scholarship. The building’s form is expressed by two bars shifted and angled to one another within the trapezoidal site, with the east bar housing faculty offices and research labs and the west bar containing classrooms and teaching labs. A glazed circulation space connects the two, fostering connections between faculty and students. Selectively transparent building facades allow views to the outside, encouraging students and researchers inside to connect with their bio-based subjects. Looking from the outside-in, the wandering eyes of community members are welcome to observe, or sometimes join, the activities and advancements taking place inside.
Exterior materials are authentic, sustainable, and true to the story of the building. The north and south facades are primarily glass, while the opaque east and west facades are clad in a durable, thermally-modified, poplar siding. Vertical slats of wood siding mimic the surrounding tall pine trees – a significant natural feature of the northeast region. An array of warm tones from the variations in the color and texture of the poplar blend into the natural setting. Exterior wood finishes carry into informal learning spaces inside, coating the ceilings, floors, and walls of hallways and the main space – the Lantern. Here, regionally harvested red oak warms the interior to create a pleasant space for study and research.
Having earned LEED Platinum certification, the building acts as a teaching lab of sustainable and innovative construction technologies, including a rooftop photovoltaic array, gray water reclamation system and high-efficiency mechanical systems. The site also features a bio-swale to manage storm water runoff and a functional vegetated roof garden that acts as an outdoor learning space, mitigates rainwater runoff on site, and effectively insulates the building, thus reducing need for mechanical cooling and heating.
The Roux Center for the Environment exemplifies form meeting function. As a mediator between built and natural realms, it reflects its remote forest setting and catalyzes collaboration between users through simple, yet purposeful, architectural gestures.