Weller Center for Health Education|
Bonsall Shafferman Architects
2045 Westgate Drive, #400, Bethlehem, PA 18017
Total Square Feet: 20,300
Construction Period: Apr 1999 to Nov 1999
General Contractor: Alvin H. Butz, Inc. - P.O. Box 509, Allentown, PA 18105
Structural Engineer: Adams Associates - 615 North 20th Street, Allentown, PA 18104
Electrical & Mechanical Engineer: Snyder Hoffman Associates - 1005 W. Lehigh Street, Bethlehem, PA 18018
Cost Estimator: Alvin H. Butz, Inc. - P.O. Box 509, Allentown, PA 18105
The Weller Center for Health Education is a not-for-profit organization that has been providing quality health education programs for more than 600,000 school age children since 1982. The success of that instruction coupled with an increasing population created the need for a larger facility that could offer expanded programs in general health, drug abuse prevention, family life education and nutrition as well as interactive exhibits for both children and adults.
Weller Center officials found a larger facility in downtown Easton where a tourist attraction renaissance has been emerging since the opening of Two Rivers Landing, an interactive Crayola "Factory", canal museum and visitor's center.
The program called for the interior and exterior renovation of two existing, adjacent, circa 1900-1930 ordinary construction-type buildings into a thoughtfully designed facility that would invite the young and old; encourage learning and discovery; nurture creativity; and transport the mind and body.
The organization of the specific function and space needs within these two buildings, while addressing the myriad of building code and accessibility issues, was accomplished collectively by two buildings bordered on three sides by public streets.
The downtown "storefront" entrance of the existing 14,450 square foot, single story mercantile building serves as the visiting tourist's "front door" into the interactive exhibit area and gift shop. The less-traveled, yet wider berth, back street serves as the school bus loading area and group student entrance into the T.A.M. auditorium and three classrooms. These rooms are outfitted with exhibit aids for the specific health lesson.
The adjacent building is a three story, 1,950 square foot per floor apartment building. Public toilets and circulation functions occupy the first floor while the second and third floors accomodate the administrative offices which can also be accessed from a separate entrance located on the alley. The basements of both buildings are utilized as mechanical, storage and exhibit repair.
The main attraction of the interactive exhibit area is a larger-than-life model of a human brain that allows a classroom of 30 to walk inside to learn how a brain thinks via a multi-media show. Other exhibits include a grocery store for nutritional shopping, a sneeze machine, heart monitors, a drunk driving experience and room for traveling exhibits.
Beyond the organization of spaces, circulation paths and technology, the architects' design intent was to create a context whereby the person would not only interact with the exhibits, but also with the spaces enclosing the exhibits and subsequently, enhance the educational experience. This was accomplished utilizing three distinct design elements: a) manipulation of form and space: the dominant curving form of the brain exhibit is reiterated in sweeping walls, reception counters and exposed round ductwork. b) the use of bright, bold colors for floors, walls, hardware and signage accentuate the curved forms and appeal to children's sensory needs. Each classroom is identified by a different color theme. c) juxtaposition of scales: by making the familiar bigger or smaller in a dramatic way creates a sense of wonder. The brain exhibit is on a gigantic scale that fascinates young and old alike, while the Wegman's grocery store exhibit is designed at a child's scale that allows children to pretend to shop.
After more than a year of design, planning and fundraising and eight months of construction, the facility opened in December 1999.
DIV 08: Entrances: Tubelite.
DIV 09: Carpet: Mannington, Bentley, Eurotex; Tile: Dal-Tile; Base: Johnsonite; Acoustical Ceilings: USG Interiors; Toilet & Bath Accessories: American Standard; Paint: Sherwin Williams.