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Battle Creek, Mich., Math and Science Center Wins National Architecture and Engineering Award

June 3, 2014 from American Institute of Steel Construction

(Chicago, IL) – The Battle Creek Area Mathematics and Science Center, an adaptive reuse learning and distribution facility in Battle Creek, Mich., has earned national recognition in the 2014 Innovative Design in Engineering and Architecture with Structural Steel awards program (IDEAS2). In honor of this achievement, members of the project team will be presented with awards from the American Institute of Steel Construction (AISC) during a ceremony at the center on Thursday, June 5, at 4 p.m.

Conducted annually by AISC, the IDEAS2 awards recognize outstanding achievement in engineering and architecture on structural steel projects across the country. The IDEASaward is the highest, most prestigious honor bestowed on building projects by the structural steel industry in the U.S. and recognizes the importance of teamwork, coordination and collaboration in fostering successful construction projects.

The center’s project team members include:

  • Owner: Battle Creek Public Schools, Battle Creek, Mich.
  • Architect: Tower Pinkster, Grand Rapids, Mich. (entering firm)
  • Structural Engineer: Teton Designs, Grand Rapids, Mich.
  • General Contractor: Schweitzer Inc., Battle Creek, Mich.
  • Steel Fabricator and Detailer: Steel Supply & Engineering, Grand Rapids, Mich. (AISC Member/AISC Certified Fabricator)

The Battle Creek Area Mathematics and Science Center is a Merit award winner in the category of projects Less than $15 Million, making it one of only eight projects around the country to receive the Merit honor. Each year, the IDEASawards honor National and Merit award winners in three categories, based on constructed value: projects less than $15 million; projects $15 million to $75 million; and projects greater than $75 million. Each project is judged on its use of structural steel from both an architectural and structural engineering perspective, with an emphasis on: creative solutions to project’s program requirements; applications of innovative design approaches in areas such as connections, gravity systems, lateral load resisting systems, fire protection and blast; aesthetic and visual impact of the project; innovative use of architecturally exposed structural steel; technical or architectural advances in the use of the steel; and the use of innovative design and construction methods.

Students and teachers alike embrace the new Battle Creek Area Mathematics and Science Center’s mantra of “Innovation Through Inspiration.” Unlike other math and science institutions, the center serves dual functions: education for exceptionally talented high school students from 16 neighboring school districts, and the design, manufacture and distribution of science curriculum materials.

“This building encompasses both a structure and a learning tool for its students,” commented Erin Criste, a staff engineer in AISC’s education department, and a judge in the competition.

In 2013, the center’s new home—an $11 million adaptive reuse facility (a former cereal museum donated by the Kellogg Company)—was completed, housing the learning center and a separate distribution center. The design team was charged with achieving the new program while transforming the agrarian aesthetic of a museum dedicated to the invention of corn flakes into a cutting-edge, 64,000-sq.-ft learning facility. The concept removed six existing barn roof forms and created cantilevered second and third floor additions over the entry plaza. Fortunately, the original building was steel-framed, allowing the architects the opportunity to achieve all of the center’s goals. A new expressive “V” column support was added at the building’s entry to support the new floors and act as a source of inspiration for students at the entry. A glass curtain wall envelops the exterior of the second floor and facilitates a greenhouse at the corner, floating over the entry and showcasing the center’s commitment to research-based learning. The new third floor is shrouded in two-tone steel panels in a pattern inspired by mathematical arrays.

The interior design concept draws on biological science where walls are an expression of organic form set in motion by a three-story pendulum swinging inside the central stair. On the third floor, the pendulum is hung from a severed cone of structural steel so that students may see its inner workings. While both of the stairs’ landings are cantilevered into space, the higher one is a longer cantilever and particular source of inspiration. The structural engineer designed a steel cable support to take the bounce out of the landing, which invites students to touch and wonder about the physics of steel.

Classrooms are bounded by monolithic walls with entries created by a serpentine structural glass weaving around a three-story atrium. This Collaboration Space is connected by new elliptical holes cut between floors and bounded by steel cable-rails. It is filled with museum-like places for study, collaboration and reflection, including a building-system display case. Scientific installations including sustainability monitors tied to building systems, suspended molecular models, interactive technology exhibits and the students’ solar car project further enhance the space. The third-floor physics lab includes a steel cantilevered perch from which to drop objects from and measure results through space.

The site is situated on 600 ft of riverfront space and a public park. The building acts as a visual anchor to the north edge of historic Battle Creek, and there is a riverfront bike path directly to Battle Creek High school three blocks away. Additional exterior spaces were developed to provide safe access to the river for biology students to study, sample and analyze the ecosystem. In addition, food science engineers from nearby Kellogg will be able to cross a bridge directly to the center to make presentations, meet with students and tour them through Kellogg’s real-world lab environments.

The 12 IDEAS2 winners for 2014 were chosen from nearly 100 submissions received from architectural and engineering firms throughout the U.S. Each submission is reviewed and award winners are selected by a nationally recognized panel of design and construction industry professionals.

The IDEAS2 award dates back more than 70 years to the earliest years of AISC’s existence. Roger E. Ferch, P.E., president of AISC, said, “The entire Battle Creek Area Mathematics and Science Center project team has shown how structural steel can be used to create structures that combine beauty and practicality. The result is a structure that serves its students and its city extremely well, while providing an example of what can be achieved when designing and constructing projects with steel.”

High-resolution images of the Battle Creek Area Mathematics and Science Center project are available upon request by contacting AISC’s Tasha Weiss at 312.670.5439, [email protected]. For more information about the IDEAS2 awards and to view all of this year’s winners, visit www.aisc.org/ideas2.

Battle Creek Math and Science Center
Photo Credit: Justin Maconochie 

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For more information contact:

Tasha Weiss
Communications Department
(312) 670-5439
[email protected]



American Institute of Steel Construction
The American Institute of Steel Construction, headquartered in Chicago, is a not-for-profit technical institute and trade association established in 1921 to serve the structural steel design community and construction industry. AISC’s mission is to make structural steel the material of choice by being the leader in structural steel-related technical and market-building activities, including: specification and code development, research, education, technical assistance, quality certification, standardization, and market development. AISC has a long tradition of service to the steel construction industry of providing timely and reliable information. 

130 East Randolph St. Suite 2000
Chicago IL 60601
Phone: 312.670.2400
Fax: 312.626.2402
www.aisc.org