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University of Washington Tacoma breaks ground on new STEM learning lab

ARO designed the project.

July 21, 2021 |
Milgard Hall exterior rendering

Courtesy ARO

The University of Washington Tacoma (UWT) has broken ground on Milgard Hall, a state-of-the-art STEM learning lab. The building will connect students and faculty across the Milgard Business School, the School of Engineering & Technology, and the Global Innovation and Design Lab.

Designed by Architecture Research Office (ARO), the 55,000-sf building will be built with mass timber and incorporates sustainability into almost every facet of the facility’s design and construction. The building is carefully sited to maximize access to daylight and views and is programmed relative to solar energy to reduce HVAC loads wherever possible.

Milgard Hall is located adjacent to the revitalized Prairie Line Trail and surrounded by historic warehouse structures. The design is rooted in Tacoma’s history, including its connection to lumber and trades and the terminus of the Northern Pacific Railroad. Exterior materials relate to the existing brick structures nearby as well as the modern urban context. Glimpses of the mass timber structure can be seen through expanses of glass in select zones. The local brick is contrasted with profiled metal panels. Large windows punctuate the facade, opening up towards the sky.


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Classrooms, laboratories, and an outdoor Science Court are situated to be visible from the Prairie Line Trail, actively connecting the students to passersby. An open, airy, common area, dubbed the “Connector,” extends through the building and accommodates a natural path across campus, further activating the building as a student hub at the south side of campus. All departments converge in the Connector, allowing it to be used simultaneously as a collaborative zone and for individual study and work. The Connector also welcomes the surrounding community, providing access to a large, flexible High Impact Practice Space and other flexible classrooms.

The building will be a home for the expanding School of Engineering and Technology (SET) and will house a lab wing providing new engineering spaces on campus. The spaces will include a machine and fabrication shop and concrete combustion labs with exterior access to the street and Science Court. Hydrology and Robotics labs are located on the upper floors of the building. The Global Innovation Design Lab (GIDLab) will include flexible spaces that support a design thinking methodology. Synergies between SET, GIDLab, and the Milgard School of Business will be promoted in the building, intersecting with the broader Tacoma community.

Milgard Hall is slated to be completed in 2023.

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