The Simons Center for Geometry and Physics is a research institute within Stony Brook University dedicated to furthering fundamental knowledge of mathematics and theoretical physics and to promoting collaboration and discovery at the interface of these two fields. The landscape concept for the Center took on the challenges of fostering exchange across disciplines, giving visual expression to current understandings in science and mathematics, and addressing the University’s sustainability goals. This required a particularly close collaboration between client and design team from initial program development to implementation. The result is an environment that seamlessly integrates the technical and the aesthetic from master plan to detailed site elements.
The Center and its surrounding landscape provide an important campus destination, one that supports the Center’s unique academic program, technology and sustainability mission, identity, and sense of place. Iconic forms illustrating mathematical concepts, such as geometric Penrose tile paving in the auditorium plaza—now a memorable brand for the Center—and sine wave planters on the terrace, demonstrate beauty in subtle complexity. Seasonally interesting native vegetation recall the vernacular Long Island dune landscape and enhance the University’s sense of place. Outdoor learning spaces with slate chalkboards and stainless steel chalk ledges facilitate collaboration and spontaneous exchange outside of the classroom. In addressing the Center’s sustainability mission, the landscape design layers functionality and use—terraces and green roofs provide valuable communal space while moderating the temperature of the building and capturing stormwater for reuse; a kitchen garden on the dining terrace supports the café’s operations and provides a space for quiet study and intimate gathering; the fountains and water wall at the Center’s entrance create a dramatic arrival sequence while forming an integral element of the building’s cooling and mechanical systems.
Since construction was completed the Center has achieved LEED Gold certification and has drawn top talent from the fields of mathematics and physics for research fellowships, lectures, and symposia. In fostering interdisciplinary exchange, expressing the inherent beauty of science and mathematics, and realizing the University’s sustainability goals, the Simons Center landscape has provided a strong identity for the research institute and the campus as a whole.
Entrant office name: Dirtworks Landscape Architecture, PC
Role of the entrant in the project: Landscape Architect
Other design firms involved: Perkins Eastman Architects, PC – Architects Project location: Stony Brook, New York
Design year: 2008
Year Built: 2010