The new Chemical and Biomedical Engineering (CBE) Building is in the heart of the ‘sciences district’ on Penn State’s University Park campus. It collocates the university’s esteemed Chemical Engineering and burgeoning Biomedical Engineering departments in space that enhances collaboration and student recruitment while supporting the fast-changing needs of science.
HOK’s design creates a modern form composed of contextual materials including brick masonry, cast stone, sandstone, zinc cladding and glass curtain wall. The building’s simple massing emerges from a fieldstone base rooted in the landscape and extends upward into a volume of glass that appears to float along the horizon. The northwest-facing glass curtain wall shears away at each lab floor, creating a feathering effect that breaks down the scale of the facade while engaging it with Penn State’s established greenway, a legacy of campus master planning that preserves a long-established grove of trees.
The CBE Building’s south face is wrapped in brick masonry matching the materiality of the adjacent science buildings. Large, vertical punched windows welcome natural light into the labs and promote views to the outside. Zinc panels wrap up and over the building, cladding the solid ends of the lab bar and the large mechanical penthouse on the top.
A cantilevered ‘prow’ creates the building’s central architectural expression. This angled form extends into the greenway and marks the main building entrance. Bathed in natural light, this four-level space includes collaboration areas, a common pantry for students and teachers, and a transparent conference room—all with panoramic views of the campus.
The building includes 13 research neighborhoods with modular labs, classrooms, conference rooms, common areas, the Dow Chemical Knowledge Commons student space and a 150-person auditorium. Many labs are along corridors where transparent glass walls enable visitors to see the work happening inside.