Lethbridge school opens new science facility

Building will be home to chemistry, biochemistry, biological sciences, neuroscience, physics, astronomy and psychology

There wasn’t the slightest vestige of triskaidekaphobia at the University of Lethbridge Sept. 13.

Far from superstitious fears associated with Friday the 13th, luck and good fortune were on the minds of dignitaries, who officially opened the U of L’s $280 million Science Commons building, a state-of-the-art facility.

The building will house the chemistry, biochemistry, biological sciences, neuroscience, physics, astronomy and psychology departments.

Perched amid the coulees leading down to the Oldman River, the 38,500 sq. metre Science Commons features extensive use of glass exterior walls and internal glass partitions, a design that “embodies the concept of science on display, serving as an open invitation to the public to see the world’s brightest minds as they work to solve today’s greatest challenges,” said the university’s news release about the opening.

In his speech at the grand opening, university president Mike Mahon echoed those words.

“Our new science building will serve as a place where deep knowledge and awareness will be sought and nurtured in order to pass on to future generations,” said Mahon. He paid tribute to the Blackfoot Confederacy and noted the Blackfoot name bestowed upon the new building is roughly translated as a place of deep knowledge and awareness that arises from the unknown into the known.

“We as a people living and benefitting from the Blackfoot Confederacy territory, honour the traditions of people who have care for this land in time immemorial.”

Mahon said the new building joins University Hall, a signature Arthur Erickson design famous for its architecture and its location nestled in river coulees.

The building features double skin construction, which is a method of dual walls that use air as an insulating layer and outside temperatures regulated to reduce heating and cooling costs. | Barb Glen photo

“Science Commons embodies our university’s direction for moving forward. By creating an environment for interdisciplinary research, Science Commons brings together faculty and students from across disciplines, providing exceptional opportunities for collaboration and discovery and challenging students and researchers to consider the wider implications of their work. This is a place for community engagement and outreach.”

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney attended the opening, noting successive Alberta governments dating back to the premiership of Ed Stelmach have contributed some $260 million to the Science Commons building project.

Lethbridge Mayor Chris Spearman said the institution contributes about $800 million per year to the city economy and provides quality education to graduates.

The Science Commons came into use with the start of the academic year in early September. The additional space allows the enrolment of 450 more students.

The faculty of arts and science saw a 23 percent increase in registration this year. Total enrolment across all disciplines is 8,956 students, a record high.

The building’s design features soaring spaces and plenty of glass, with the goal of making scientific research accessible and visible to the public. | Barb Glen photo

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