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  Knight Space Science Education Center & The Challenger Learning Center Of Arizona, Page 34Knight Space Science Education Center & The Challenger Learning Center Of Arizona
The Orcutt/Winslow Partnership 
1130 North 22nd St., Phoenix, AZ 85022

Peoria, Arizona
Total Square Feet: 35,788
Construction Period: July 1999 to Aug 2000

Construction Team
General Contractor: Target General, Inc. - 3036 East Greenway Rd., Phoenix, AZ 85032 
Structural Engineer: Caruso Turley Scott, Inc. - 2702 North 44th St., Phoenix, AZ 85008 
Electrical & Mechanical Engineer: Sullivan Designs, Inc. - 7878 North 16th St., #270, Phoenix, AZ 85020 
Landscape Architect: Laskin And Associates, Inc. - 5112 North 40th St., #202, Phoenix, AZ 85018 
Cost Estimator: Target General, Inc. - 3036 East Greenway Rd., Phoenix, AZ 85032

One of the most technologically advanced space science education centers in the United states, The Challenger Learning Center of Arizona features concrete, steel and metal construction that extends throughout the four story structure. The 35,000-square-foot plus facility was designed to teach kids about space travel and expand their learning through math, science and technology and to motivate students to pursue careers in these fields.

After the Space Shuttle Challenger crew died in the terrible post-launch explosion in 1986, their families vowed that memories of the astronauts would live on. Teach-in-space Christa McAufiffe's personal mission was to instill a love of science among young students. Ever since the disaster, the Challenger Center for Space Science Education has established more than 40 interactive learning centers in North America. Each center has its own unique design based on the community it serves. Orcutt/Winslow worked extensively with the community and with area students to develop the final design. Orcutt/Winslow also placed an ad in a local newspaper requesting the participation of fifth and sixth grade students in an interactive brainstorming session to help develop the initial design. Hands-on exhibits and the history of space were included in the architecture as a result of their input.

The architectural team set out to build the excitement of the Challenger experience even before visitors set foot into the building. A NASA hanger-type building design was developed with materials specifically chosen to enunciate the illusion of space travel. The building reflects the most contemporary technology practical. From the white metal siding, to the curtainwall of reflective glass on the face of the triangular structure, to the steel gantry and exterior stairway, the simple, yet dynamic design creates an image of the future appropriate to its function. A red stairway on the southwest side of the building is modeled after the gantry or movable stairway that technicians use to prepare a rocket for launch. The gantry serves not only as a visual cue to the purpose of the building but also as an emergency exit.

The white metal cylinder that houses the main rotunda serves as the facility's centerpiece. This room features a 180 degree historical "tour of the universe" mural created by artist Robert T. McCall. A satellite dish and a cylindrical concrete cast-in-place cooling tower are to the right of the building's entrance. In the winter, condensation forms around it, resembling steam emitted from a rocket about to lift off. As visitors cross the adjacent gantry bridge they experience a vibrating sensation and the absence of a solid floor surface as they enter the building and the beginning of their space tour.

Sights, sounds, smells and textures play a major role in the "experience" at the center. From the satellite dish antennae at the entrance to the center to a metal gantry that leads visitors into the four story building, the sense of being taken into a new dimension is overwhelming. Stimulants of each of the senses are used throughout a series of technology-driven entry sequences, further enhancing the "space" experience. Color and texture promote wayfinding in the exhibition and lobby space. The design follows an instructional path established by the national Challenger Center program, and once the mission is complete moves back into the interior of the center. An observation deck on the roof offers an excellent perspective of the desert sky for planet viewing and nighttime astronomy activities. 

The experience stimulates interest in science and math while allowing teachers to build classroom curriculum around the mission.

DIV 07: Metal Roof: Morin Corporation; Prefinished Metal Siding: Morin Corporation.
DIV 08: Curtainwall: Interpane; Glazing: Viracon; Glazed Curtainwall: EFCO Corporation; Entrances & Storefronts: Sierra Auto Doors, Inc.; Metal Doors & Frames: Three "G" Industries; Wood & Plastic Doors: Buell; Hardware: Corbin Russwin.
DIV 09: Carpet, VCT: Mannington; Gypsum Board: Gold Bond; Paint: ICI Paints; Acoustical Treatment: Armstrong Aluma Vault™.
DIV 14: Elevators: KONE.

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