Where Art Meets STEM

Gene Schermer Instructional STEM Building

Grays Harbor College

The new Gene Schermer Instructional Building redefines the student experience at Grays Harbor and integrates art programs into a STEM building, providing opportunities for cross-discipline learning and collaboration. The design establishes a new relationship between classrooms and public space to create an integrated environment where learning happens everywhere. Flexible, adaptable and reconfigurable classroom spaces support a variety of teaching approaches, transforming the relationship between teachers and students.


70,300 sf


Aberdeen, WA

Year Complete




Taking Advantage of Challenging Topography

A four story tower holds faculty offices plus laboratory and studio spaces. It interlocks with a podium – which is a partial basement engaging the hillside. A planted roof system of gently rolling landscape mounds exists over the level one podium. It is a gathering space, reduces storm water volume and heat island effects and provides increased roof insulation value.

Connecting Classrooms with Public Space

The program spaces are arranged with major public spaces and general classrooms located closest to the entry points, devoting much of the first floor for less-specific use by all departments and all of campus. The landscaped podium space is a major entry from the south and provides direct visual connection and easy access to stairs and elevators to the lobby the public spaces on level one.

A generous entry lobby and a major meeting space bordered by casual seating and study zones is contiguous with general circulation and further surrounded by general classrooms and computer labs on most of the first floor. Program spaces that comprise the tower portion of the building are more departmentally specific and arranged with laboratory and studio spaces on the north and office spaces on the south.

Inspired by Local Context

The design of both the building and the landscape draws influence from the jumbled, chaotic logjams that would develop the Chehalis River. Attention to this history influenced the interior finishes of natural materials and surfaces, including textured concrete walls, wood ceilings, and reclaimed timber wall cladding.

Flexible Classroom Design

Classrooms are designed to adapt to a variety of teaching styles, from the sage on the stage to a guide on the side. Movable furniture and the integration of technology throughout the spaces enable team learning and collaboration in all of the learning environments in the building.