Convergent Research — a new era of innovation
By Brent Wilcox
Higher Education Practice Leader
As the demands of scientific inquiry intensify on a global scale, research methods must evolve in support of the rigorous pace of discovery. Interdisciplinary research— a team-based approach that leverages cross-disciplinary innovation— is a driving force behind the most profound scientific discoveries of this century. Modern academic research facilities are designed to break down silos between scientific disciplines in support of ideation. The use of glass-fronted laboratories puts science on display, inviting conversation and collaboration to unfold organically.
Building upon interdisciplinary research models, convergent research integrates disciplines outside of the sciences to solve complex societal problems— from climate change to cancer therapy. This approach ushers in a new era of scientific discovery, requiring design solutions that support innovative breakthroughs.
Case Study: The Ohio State University, Interdisciplinary Research Facility
The Ohio State University is known as an early innovator, transforming education and research since 1870. Continuing this legacy, the new Interdisciplinary Research Facility (IRF) sets the stage for the next generation of research, centered on convergence. Further activating Ohio State’s emerging Innovation District, the facility will enhance campus connectivity between the main campus, the medical district, agriculture, and Natural Resources Laboratory. The 305,000 square-foot building hosts interactive laboratories designed to promote open sharing of ideas and inquiry across biomedical, life sciences, engineering, and environmental science disciplines.
Adjacent to the IRF, The Energy Advancement and Innovation Center (EAIC), will frame the plaza to create a community setting. To encourage interpersonal connection between buildings, the IRF utilizes resources in the EAIC, including a café, kitchen, and event hall. Together, the two buildings lay the groundwork for a hub of scientific inquiry, as future development plans hope to attract industry-leading talent.
Unlike most academic research buildings, the IRF welcomes the community inside with a science on display space, open to all. The public space is designed to create intentional collisions between public and private groups, sparking cross-disciplinary ideation. Furnished with flexible high-top tables, the space is adaptable for collaboration, social networking, and presentations. Business start-ups or Fortune 500 companies can utilize the space to generate new ways of thinking, as part of the scientific community at OSU. The lab benches are universally flexible and can be modified to meet the needs of any research team. Equipped with appropriate gas and HVAC systems, the labs accommodate diverse research needs—from chemistry to engineering— all on the same bench.
The facility will bring together engineers, physicists, and artists under one roof to tackle society’s major challenges. By creating a facility dedicated to convergent research, the IRF is at forefront of this next generation of scientific inquiry.
Architect of Record; Moody Nolan
Design Architect; Pelli Clarke & Partners
Lab Planner; Jacobs Lab Planners
Urban / Campus Designer; REALM Collaborative