Image credit: Penn StateThe Pell Laboratory is a recently completed 22,395-square-foot bio-containment facility located within a cluster of research facilities on the University Park campus of Penn State. Similar facilities are usually designed as windowless bunkers for security reasons, but the design of the Pell Lab breaks with that tradition. Great care was taken to provide access to the natural environment for workers.
The building’s most distinctive feature is its undulating roof form, which houses a complex array of mechanical systems and provides a dramatic silhouette against the horizon. The zinc-clad roof covers twin-concrete block laboratories that straddle a central spine framing landscape views at each end. The building design provides transparency, natural light and a connection to the outside landscape. The Pennsylvania landscape surrounding the laboratory contains several simple rectangular barns and the design of the Pell Lab reflects and builds on these simple traditions, but with an attitude that reflects the cutting edge research being conducted inside the lab.
The research spaces are organized into suites, allowing multiple research projects to be conducted without concerns about cross-contamination. The suite configuration and interior finishes help facilitate continuous operation of the adjacent research spaces and minimizes research interruption.
The Pell Laboratory also was designed as a Select-Agent facility; making it capable of taking on advanced research projects. The project was funded by the National Institute of Health, as part of the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act. While small in size, the Pell Laboratory is a hugely significant tool in the research community and an important architectural addition to University Park.