Modified Plan Is Expected To Save 10 Percent Of Cost
April 22, 2005
By JEFFREY B. COHEN, Courant Staff Writer
The team that will
turn the idea of the Connecticut Center for Science and Exploration
into a 144,000-square-foot, $150 million reality was finalized
Thursday, as the center's board selected a builder and the
Also Friday, Cesar Pelli & Associates
presented the trustees with the next generation of the building's
architectural design - one that attempts to make a more efficient
use of space while reducing the facility's cost by 10 percent.
The project is funded with $107 million from the state.
To date, another $19 million has been raised, leaving more than
$22 million to be found, officials said. Henry McKinnell, co-chairman
of the science center board, said that more than $12 million
in funding requests are pending.
The project's builder will be the Whiting-Turner Contracting
Co., which recently built the Maryland Science Center expansion
in Baltimore and the Anlyan Center for Medical Research and Education
at the Yale University School of Medicine in New Haven.
The board then approved the exhibit design team made up of two
companies: Thinc Design of New York and Jeff Kennedy Associates
"This combination ... really floated to the top of our
analysis," science center president and CEO Theodore S.
Sergi said. He said both companies are "much sought after
by many of the major science center expansions in the country."
Tom Hennes, founder and president
of Thinc, started his career as a theater designer in New York
and later moved to exhibit design. His first project was something
called the "Green
Slime Geiser," done for Nickelodeon Studios, he said.
"If I'm ever remembered for anything, it's probably going
to be slime," Hennes said. He has since worked on projects
including Mystic Aquarium, an IBM exhibit at Disney's Epcot Center,
The Franklin Institute, and a Sony Playstation flagship store
in San Francisco.
Theater and social engagement
play major roles in his design, Hennes said, as he tries "to
bring a very unfamiliar world to life for people, and giving
them an opportunity to explore through a variety of means."
Jeff Kennedy Associates has worked for the New York Hall of
Science, Boston's John F. Kennedy Library and Museum, and the
public utility-sponsored Pacific Energy Center in San Francisco.
Next for the science center
will come five to six months of work between the architect
and the exhibit designers - what Sergi called the "most important part." That
will be followed by 12 months of design and 12 months of exhibit
fabrication, Sergi said.
A groundbreaking is tentatively scheduled for October, with
a tentative opening date sometime in late 2007 or early 2008,
Following the selection of
the builder and exhibit designers, the board was briefed on
the latest plans by Fred Clarke, a principal at Cesar Pelli & Associates.
Clarke said his job for the
past few months has been to introduce "a
healthy dose of reality and refinement to the project."
As a result, the architects didn't just reduce the gross area,
"We took this assignment to improve efficiency, to improve
the functional characteristics of the building, and actually
improve the architecture," he said.
For starters, Pelli moved the educational level down to the
Columbus Boulevard level, he said.
"Cesar has always felt that Columbus Boulevard should be
a very active front," Clarke said. "This is absolutely
the right answer."
The architects have relocated
exhibit space, a gift shop and the "Imaginarium" to
the plaza level, one floor above the parking level. The Imaginarium,
a smaller theater, used to be on the center's very top level,
Relocating the Imaginarium allowed the designers to remove the
entire top floor from the center's South Tower.
"This is a dramatic change
in cost, a dramatic change in function, and we also think it's
an improvement, architecturally," Clarke
He said the original design for the South Tower obstructed the
view of the roof of the center's main structure.
"All of this has resulted in a building that is as beautiful,
more beautiful - Cesar feels it's more handsome, to use his terms
- than the competition when we started," he said.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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