Meinel Optical Sciences West Building Expansion


This building received a 2007 American Institute of Architects (AIA) National Honor Award for Architecture, the profession's highest recognition of works that exemplify excellence in architecture, interior design and urban planning. It was one of only 11 buildings worldwide and the only Tucson building to ever receive an honor award in the award's 59-year history. The goal of the project was to create a building commensurate with the international reputation of the College of Optical Sciences and enable the College to retain its status as one of the world's premier optical instructional and research programs. The new expansion includes meeting space, faculty offices and research labs.

Design Intent

The facility's design features incorporate optical science materials and methods. One example of this is the building organization which emphasizes the contrast of "blind" and "seeing" spaces. "Blind" Space - Light sensitive research functions are organized along the southern, windowless side of the building. The cast-in-place concrete building is sheathed in copper panels, recalling the color of the campus brick in an interpretive way. The skin is designed as a breathable "rain screen", which protects the inner membrane from the harsh desert sun. "Seeing" Space - Office and support space open to natural light and views of the campus mall and mountains to the north. The glass wall is folded as an interpretation of a Fresnel lens. The simultaneous use of reflection and transparency recall the rhythm and texture of the existing building's pre-cast facade. The interior public space was conceived as an abstraction of another optical device: the Camera Obscura. Daylight is introduced by three vertical light shafts, and allowed to interact and modulate the spaces within. Each shaft features specific optical effect, allowing natural daylight to actively integrate into daily activities within the building.

Project Number
Building Number(s)
94 | 94D
Current Budget
Projected Ultimate Budget
Project Manager
Facilities Project Manager
Construction Schedule
April 2003 - April 2006
Lloyd Construction Co Inc
Design Professional
Richard & Bauer Architecture
Delivery Method

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