Setting the Stage for 21st Century Learning
Since 1892, the Natural History Building has been a landmark at the University of Illinois. Designed by the renowned Nathan Ricker—Illinois alumnus and first architectural graduate in the U.S.—the building underwent a $70 million renovation in 2014 to transform the interior into a modern learning environment while preserving the architectural details that led to its place on the National Register of Historic Places.
Upgrades to the building include:
The renovation of the 148,000 square-foot Natural History Building created dynamic learning environments that support the latest methods in teaching and research. Classroom interiors are modular and feature digital screens that enhance collaboration among students and teachers. The renovated laboratories showcase the latest advanced technology.
Additionally, walls, air handling, electrical grids, and other infrastructure are adaptable so that in the coming decades the building can be modified with minimal disruption.
This project also was environmentally sound, leading to the building receiving LEED Gold certification from the American Green Building Council.
An academic building needs to inspire the mind. The renovated Natural History Building includes a variety of thought-provoking and collaborative spaces, including:
- Vibrant community hubs, including a remarkable vaulted chamber on the third floor and a beautiful open space off of the Green Street entrance where students can meet, study, and exchange ideas
- Numerous seminar rooms and smart lecture halls with the latest IT links, and modern offices designed to foster interdisciplinary collaboration
- State-of-the-art laboratories for advanced courses and specialized research in areas including geophysics, geochemistry, sedimentology, earth materials, geomicrobiology, and remote sensing
- A biology honors suite
- Computer labs where students work with the latest geographic and remote-sensing data, model the Earth System, and explore mathematical models of biological processes
- A visualization studio where researchers can perform tasks such as analyzing satellite weather data to look into the eye of a hurricane, or analyzing satellite space mission data with NASA
- Specialized teaching facilities where students can learn how to build analytical instruments that can be used for microscopic analysis of earth materials, visualizing big data using geographic information systems, and other projects
The completion of this project has led to all programs within the School of Earth, Society, and Environment—Atmospheric Sciences, Geography and Geographic Information Science, and Geology—being brought together under one roof for the first time.
The building is also home to teaching programs in the School of Integrative Biology—Evolution, Ecology, and Behavior; Entomology; and Plant Biology—and the Integrative Biology Honors Program.