Pearce Science Center

Mary Baldwin University

Staunton, Virginia


Pearce Science Center had received only minor updates since its original construction in 1970. In the Campus Master Plan completed by GBR Architects, Pearce was noted to be generally adequate in size, but greatly in need of modernization to effectively support the sciences at Mary Baldwin. In order to provide an updated science facility, GBR began with a feasibility assessment to explore options for siting a replacement building and repurposing Pearce to house other academic programs. After consideration of multiple scenarios, it was decided that a phased renovation of Pearce would provide the most cost-effective solution.


The design strategy for the renovation leveraged the positive aspects of the original building by modernizing many existing functions in their current location.  At the same time, the plan transformed the character of the building into a modern collaborative learning environment. The imperatives for the project were to enhance opportunities for student research, to enhance the flexibility to accommodate multiple forms of learning, to encourage community interaction, and to embody a sense of discovery. Programmatically, the plan provided an informal and collaborative Science Commons by creating a cross-axis to the existing main corridor connecting to a small café-style space in an unused greenhouse. It also provided for new student research labs clustered with adjacent faculty offices to ensure that every senior in the School of Science can complete a required research project. The new labs would have extensive glazing opening them up and energizing the public corridors.


In order to secure funding for the initial phase of renovation, GBR Architects worked with Mary Baldwin to develop a response to a National Science Foundation grant solicitation. The original renovation concept was modified to focus specifically on research nodes in response to the grant program criteria and funding levels.  GBR Architects developed conceptual graphics to be included in the grant submission, a verbal description of the proposed renovation, and a cost estimate.


The first phase of renovation focused on the ground floor level. This strategy facilitated the utility and infrastructure upgrades necessary to serve subsequent phases. It also provided a new accessible entrance and lobby space to serve the building and adjacent auditorium. The new work invigorated the Science Department with a new classroom, teaching labs, an imaging suite, and student research labs.