Bringing the world of science exploration to Hartford's waterfront at the Connecticut Science Center

Hartford, CT, USA

The Connecticut Science Center embodies the excitement and wonder of science through an iconic form. Conceived as an educational anchor for Adrien’s Landing, an economic development initiative, it is part of the largest redevelopment project in Hartford since the 1970s. The Science Center creates a sense of place where “no place” previously existed. Previously a large surface parking lot adjacent to I-91, the Science Center illustrates public architecture’s potential to be able to create a new piece of the city. 

"Pelli’s building has redefined the Hartford skyline in a contemporary, complimentary, inspiring and appropriate way, and it continues to serve the Science Center’s functional purposes very well, 10 years since it opened."
— Matt Fleury, CEO Connecticut Science Center

Shaping a new gateway to downtown Hartford 

The building is both exciting and highly functional, while providing a bold image that allows it to serve as a gateway to Downtown Hartford. The project consists of a large podium garage that links with the Convention Center via an elevated Plaza to the Connecticut River. The design embodies the excitement and innovation associated with the Science and Technology displayed within. The form consists of three key elements: a striking parallelogram tower; a terraced volume with unique cantilevered design; and Science Alley, a narrow six-story space with an iconic S-shaped "magic carpet" roof. The forms are exciting, luminous and inviting volumes that are transparent enough to reveal the activity within the center, visible from the highway, street, and downtown. 

Science Alley serves as a central circulation point from which visitors can discover all of the museum’s exhibitions and attractions. 
Underneath the Magic Carpet Roof is a soaring, light-filled atrium that is 143-feet at its tallest point. 

Grand and sweeping arrival

Visitors enter the Science Center at street level on the west side and immediately ascend a generous staircase into Science Alley, a grand hall crisscrossed by pedestrian bridges. This striking space serves as a central circulation point from which visitors can discover all the museum’s exhibitions and attractions. With its soaring, east-facing glass wall, the space draws visitors out to a landscaped plaza on the Connecticut River. To the south of Science Alley, exhibition areas are contained within the parallelogram-shaped tower, whose east wall tilts toward the river, creating a large observation deck. 

of the steel used for the Science Center is manufactured from recycled cars

Sustainable strategies at the forefront

The building uses multiple strategies to achieve its LEED Gold rating: energy saving mechanisms, locally manufactured building materials, recycled content building materials including 95 percent of the steel from recycled cars, the use of high-performance glazing on the exterior envelope, and a fuel cell that generates energy on site are some of the features that contribute to the sustainability concept of the Center. 

The building features transparent glass, reflective metal panels, photovoltaic panels, and a prominent LED screen. 

More About the Project

Project Team

Principal Collaborators

  • Structural Engineer: Schlaich Bergermann and Partner
  • MEP: Altieri Sebor Wieber

Project Information

  • Location: Hartford, Connecticut, USA
  • Client: Connecticut Science Center
  • Size: 160,000 sq. ft. / 14,900 sq. m.
  • Completion: 2009
  • Certification: LEED Gold
  • Firm Role: Full Service Architect
  • Principal Project Photography: Jeff Goldberg/ESTO