Dominican University, Parmer Hall

River Forest, Illinois

  • FIRM

    Holabird & Root


    Dominican University

  • AREA

    124,000 sq.ft.





When Dominican University recognized that its aging science facility no longer met academic needs, it hired the architect to design Parmer Hall, a state-of-the-art science building that would represent the academic future of the university while remaining true to the Collegiate Gothic architectural style that characterized the rest of the historic campus.

Parmer ADDITIONAL INFORMATIONCOST PER SQ FT$256.00FEATURED IN2008 Educational InteriorsINTERIOR CATEGORYLaboratories is Dominican University’s largest single building and includes classrooms, laboratories, observation and research rooms, faculty and staff offices, common areas and a lecture hall. Equally important to the university was that Parmer Hall would have the same life expectancy as the original building, be sustainable, and remain within the university’s budget.

The architect designed Parmer Hall to support today’s more participatory science education, which relies heavily on research and laboratory facilities. Seventeen laboratories were created for the university’s biology, chemistry, physics, nutrition and dietetics, and psychology departments. The labs are designed with flexible seating, which enables students to work independently or within a group, fostering active, hands-on learning. Wherever possible, movable furniture was used so that seating arrangements could be adapted easily to several teaching methods. Fume hoods, equipment and computer stations were placed around the rooms’ perimeters, maximizing visibility, which promotes instruction and group discussion.

Lighting is direct/indirect to provide even light at the working surface without glare. Exterior walls were kept open to allow natural light through and provide views of the stunning landscape. At night, the building’s transparency allows passersby to see the activities going on within the facility.

The nutrition and dietetics laboratory has a demonstration area and a commercial kitchen space. Students use the kitchen to operate a mini restaurant open to the public, and Dominican faculty and staff for lunch once a week. It has become one of the most popular places on campus.