Raising UO's Research Profile

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A project to transform one of the University of Oregon’s most hidden resources is now fully off the ground — and well above it.

The new $19.5 million Allan Price Science Commons and Research Library is open after a 20-month overhaul that:

  • Boosts its area by 4,000 square feet, to more than 40,000 square feet
  • Increases the number of classrooms and study spaces
  • Doubles the total seating capacity
  • Provides reservable group study rooms
  • Offers specially equipped, discipline-specific rooms for biology, chemistry, computer science, human physiology, geology, and physics
  • Outfits a new makerspace
  • Showcases a “big data” visualization lab, and most dramatically
  • Adds a light-filled commons area that rises above the concrete plaza between Willamette Hall and Onyx Bridge in the heart of the Lorry I. Lokey Science Complex.

With a 72 percent surge in the number of science majors since 2000, the science library had long ago outgrown its former underground space, which had just one significant update in its 45-year life — two decades ago.

The positive response to the new facility exceeds the library staff’s most optimistic expectations, according to Adriene Lim, UO Libraries dean and Philip H. Knight Chair.

“We are thrilled,” she said. “We’re already seeing an impressive increase in the numbers of people using this library. They’re excited by the new services and technologies, and faculty members are quickly finding new ways to use them in their teaching and research.”

The renovation was kick-started by philanthropist Lorry Lokey with an $8 million lead gift in memory of Allan Price, the former UO vice president responsible for unprecedented growth in private philanthropy from 2001-08.

“Libraries are integral to the advancement of the professions, and Oregon was terribly behind in the condition of its science library,” Lokey said. “Now, we’re ahead of the world. It’s a gorgeous testimony not only to Allan, but to the growth of the University of Oregon.”

At its official opening on Thursday, Oct. 6, the Price Science Commons area was packed with UO officials, library staff, students, faculty members, donors and volunteers. They were treated to the unveiling of an original artwork by Susan Price, Allan Price’s widow, who collaborated with Eugene glass artist John Rose with assistance from artists Randy Ortiz and Sandy Tilcock.

Her work, titled “RISE,” draws from the Chinese tradition of the five elements of nature. Its representation of a sun placed on a swirling bed of river stones incorporates symbols of each: wood, fire, water, metal and earth.

“Allan had one ongoing complaint about our move to Oregon,” she mused to the opening night audience. “Where’s the sun? I dreamed one night about a simplistic Zen-like sun, and as I was considering the piece, thought, ‘If it never rains in Autzen, the sun should always shine on campus as well.’”

The work’s central element, the sun, represents the bright spot her husband was in her life, with five gold embellishments representing their grandchildren. While its extending rays hold personal symbolism, they also are emblematic of the work of faculty and students and all that nourishes their learning and research: the support staff, resources, facilities and philanthropic investments.

“Allan inspired many with the idea to dream big, because bold visions change lives and change the world,” she said. “My hope is that this artwork serves as a visual respite and motivational touchstone for students and faculty. May their big dreams and hard work continue to rise in this magnificent facility.”

Built by Andersen Construction, the new library was designed by Opsis Architects to support an unprecedented integration of the sciences in UO research and education while remaining adaptable as information technology continues to evolve. It is expected to achieve LEED Gold certification.

The principal design concept is the idea of the commons. In the past, libraries emphasized quiet spaces for individual study. While the new facility still has those areas, it also provides numerous open areas for collaboration along with access to a range of information from all scientific fields and sources.

Among the new features is the Robert DeArmond MakerSpace, outfitted with a laser cutter, 3D printers, crafting tools and computer software. The space is open to all students on campus.

The data visualization lab is the only place in the state of Oregon where groups can view full resolution, 50-million-pixel images. It allows researchers to gain new insights into huge datasets, build 3D simulations and explore vistas ranging from nanoparticles to vast expanses of outer space.

The study areas also feature rolling white boards to promote collaboration and interaction. The building also has a courtyard, and the commons area boasts the whimsically named coffee shop, Elements Ca-Fé.

“It’s a fitting tribute to Allan’s legacy,” said Scott Coltrane, senior vice president and provost. “This new hub for the sciences is a key part of our master plan to advance our collaborative research and teaching. It provides space for the deep learning and bold thinking that Allan championed in order to transform lives and improve the world.”

In addition to Lokey, the project’s major donors include Marcia L. Aaron, Patricia and John Bentley, Barbara Reed Cargill, Leona DeArmond, Rosaria Haugland, Jill and Phillip Lighty, Nancy and David Petrone, Darcy and Hank Tarbell, Julie and Keith Thomson, Ann and Tommy Thompson, and Lisa and Jon Stine.

In 2014, the Oregon Legislature put the project on a fast track with approval of an $8.375 million in general obligation bonds to round out funding for the long-needed project, which boosts the state’s research and development capacity overall.

The Price Science Commons and Research Library is part of the seven-branch UO Libraries system, which is the state’s largest research library. It is open 8 a.m.-11 p.m. during regular terms. To arrange a tour, contact Lara Nesselroad at 541-346-2664 or lnessel@uoregon.edu.

—By Melody Leslie, University Communications