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Last modified: Wednesday, July 5, 2006

As Simon Hall completion nears, space allocation a hot topic

July 5, 2006

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- A space on Indiana University Bloomington's campus once occupied by nothing but students rushing to class soon will be home to 750 scientists and support staff busily mixing reagents, inoculating cell cultures, and typing up replies to fly mutant requests.

Simon Hall construction photo

Simon Hall earlier this year

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The $55.7 million, 140,000-square-foot Simon Hall is 75 percent complete and is scheduled to open its doors to scientists and support staff in February 2007. Most of the outside work on Simon's above-ground "tower" and its underground structural portions is complete. What's left is inside stuff -- making sure gas pipes are in the right places, electrical and Internet wires are where they should be, and installing benches, furniture, fancy scientific equipment, safety systems and...a lot of lighting.

"We're right on budget, still on target, and there really have been no unfortunate surprises," said Assistant Vice President and University Architect Robert Meadows.

Building planners experienced one surprise, but it was the good kind. In late 2004 Lilly Endowment Inc. gave IU $53 million for METACyt, a project that is expanding and buttressing life sciences research on the Bloomington campus. The grant provides funds for hiring new scientists -- scientists who will need laboratory and office space.

"We've made some modifications to Simon to get hires from METACyt in there," Meadows said.

This month, building planners, faculty and staff meet to re-discuss space needs and allocation.

In the spirit of the Chemistry Building, which is adorned with chemical symbols and snippets of the periodic table, and Myers Hall, itself decorated with medical and biological symbols, Simon Hall designers have decided to integrate cleverly hidden symbols of the type of work which will take place inside. Conceived by faculty, translated into clay by sculptor Amy Brier and carved by Indiana Limestone Co., Inc. artisans, renderings of organisms important to geneticists will adorn stonework near windows and doors. Passers-by should look for the bacterium E. coli, the paisley-like protist Paramecium, maize, mice and fruit flies, among others.

Simon Hall conduits

Photo by: David Bricker

The innards of a new IU Bloomington science building

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Unlike other science buildings on the Bloomington campus, Simon Hall will be configured in a way that facilitates collaboration between scientists from the sometimes disparate fields of biology, physics, chemistry, mathematics and psychology.

As plans currently stand, space will be allocated for cell biologists, microbiologists, molecular biologists, geneticists, analytical chemists and biochemists, and biophysicists, including one new hire for the Biocomplexity Institute.

The Center for Genomics and Bioinformatics, which has grown from a few scientists to about 40 full-time and part-time research staff, also will be allocated office and lab space. David Clemmer, distinguished professor and the Robert and Marjorie Mann Chair in the Department of Chemistry, along with a junior faculty chemist, will receive space for proteomics research. The Linda and Jack Gill Center for Biomolecular Science and the Johnson Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation will be given space for conferencing and offices.

"We've tried to use funds to create as much lab space as possible, without making researchers and staff feel at all cramped," said Associate University Architect Rich Thompson. "We are confident the people who move into Simon Hall will like the spaces they inhabit and be able to do their work effectively."

The building will provide scientists with low-, medium- and high-hood intensive lab spaces, instrumentation labs, specialty labs and areas that are isolated from vibration.

Planners will create a slightly elevated knoll on the west side of Simon where students, faculty and staff can read or lunch on sunnier days. A new courtyard will be created between Simon and Myers halls.

Photo by: Anderson Illustration Associates Inc.

An artist's rendering of the completed Simon Hall

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IU Bloomington geologist Enrique Merino did not wait for Simon Hall's completion to use the building for research.

"We've discovered in the big hole dig for Simon Hall conclusive evidence for how exactly 'terra rossa' clays form," said Merino, professor emeritus of geochemistry. "Terra rossa is the red clay we have here in southern Indiana that lies on limestone."

Simon Hall was originally named Multidisciplinary Science Building Phase I -- or MSB I -- and will be followed by MSB II and III. Generous members of the Simon family gave Indiana University approximately $9 million to complete the project. To honor their gift, IU will apply the family's surname to the structure.

While MSB II and III have not yet been given go-ahead dates for construction, last year the Indiana University Board of Trustees approved the MSB II project and its proposed design, which has much in common with Simon Hall. Trustees recently voted to prioritize projects that increase laboratory space on IU's Bloomington and Indianapolis campuses.

To speak with Robert Meadows or Rich Thompson, IU Architect's Office, or Enrique Merino, IUB Department of Geological Sciences, please contact David Bricker at 812-856-9035 or