A Peaceful Plaza Basks Beneath This Giant, Futuristic Oculus

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By Diana Budds
A verdant plaza below a cantilevered structure serves as a natural acoustic insulator.

The plaza between two wings of the Millennium Science Complex by Rafael Viñoly Architects looks like a lush oasis, but appearances deceive: it’s actually a carefully orchestrated space designed to limit noise and vibration transmission to the high-tech laboratories located beneath it. Winding paths discourage runners. Skateboarders and cyclists can’t ride over the fine gravel surfaces easily, but the permeable material allows for rainwater retention. Hilly plots peppered with native plants further insulate the rooms below. Aside from the performace requirements, the garden rewards visitors with a striking landscape. "One can find opportunities for contemplation with framed views of Mount Nittany to the east and of the sky above through the oculus," says David Rolland, a partner at Rafael Viñoly Architects.  

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