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Coming in 2010: New space for research, serendipity and intellectual collisions

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The fences are up; orange-vested workers are gathering. Construction of the new physical sciences building -- an enhanced research and teaching space for Chemistry and Chemical Biology, Physics, and Applied and Engineering Physics -- on East Avenue between Rockefeller Hall and Baker Lab, has begun.

The architectural design firm for the building, scheduled for completion in fall 2010, is Boston-based Koetter, Kim & Associates, whose founders are both Cornell alumni. "A unique combination of pure and use-inspired research addressing important societal problems will be enabled by the new building," says College of Engineering Dean Kent Fuchs, "including bio-physics and nano-biotechnology applications to human health and sustainable energy sources."

It will hold more than 80 research and teaching laboratories, new meeting, dining and gathering spaces, a 120-seat auditorium, and a basement with some of the most noise-free, vibration-proof facilities in the world.

The buffered labs will be used to develop instruments for atomic-scale fabrication and manipulation, as well as microscopy tools for exploring the structure of molecules, materials and cells.

Building timeline:

Sept. 24 to October: McCarthy Building Co. will begin preparations for construction trailers and services.

October: Utility relocations, site staging, and other preparations for excavation and demolition will begin.

For the next six months: Work will focus on utility relocations and the construction of the utility tunnel at the north side of Rockefeller and the west side of Clark.

Spring: Work will begin on the building foundations.

And the building will invite collaboration, say planners, with shared research space, inviting atria and study areas, a café, and various niches and nooks for (as some have coined it) "the serendipity of informal intellectual collisions."

"Some of the most interesting work in science occurs at the boundaries between disciplines," says College of Arts and Sciences Dean Peter Lepage. "Our new building will physically link the already extensive facilities in Clark Hall, Rockefeller Hall, Baker Lab and Olin Lab, as well as provide a focal point for interaction among those communities. It will bring Cornell's culture of scientific collaboration -- one of the strongest in the country -- to a new level."

Site preparation is currently under way, and utility relocation will take place throughout the next six months. Work on the building foundation is expected to begin in the spring.