The Natural History Building: Setting the Stage for 21st Century Learning
Since 1892, the Natural History Building has been a landmark at the University of Illinois. Designed by the renowned Nathan Ricker—Illinois alumnus and first architectural graduate in the U.S.—the building has served Illinois well.
But the infrastructure that worked for so long does not meet today’s teaching and research demands. In May 2014, the building was closed for a $70 million renovation that will transform the interior into a modern learning environment while preserving the architectural details that led to its place on the National Register of Historic Places.
Modern classrooms and laboratories
The renovation of the 148,000 square-foot Natural History Building is creating a dynamic learning environment that supports the latest methods in teaching and research. Classroom interiors are modular and feature digital screens that enhance collaboration among students and teachers. The renovated laboratories showcase the latest advanced technology. Walls, air handling, electrical grids, and other infrastructure will be adaptable so that in the coming decades the building can be adapted with minimal expense.
Importantly, the project is environmentally sound, with every effort made to earn LEED certification by the U.S. Green Building Council.
Bringing like minds together
When the renovation is complete, all programs within the School of Earth, Society, and Environment —which includes the departments of Atmospheric Sciences, Geography and Geographic Information Science, and Geology—will be brought together under one roof for the first time.
The Natural History Building will also become home to teaching programs in the School of Integrative Biology —which includes the departments of Animal Biology, Entomology, and Plant Biology—and the Integrative Biology Honors Program.
An academic building needs to inspire the mind. Renovation designs call for a variety of thought-provoking and collaborative spaces, including:
- Vibrant community hubs including a remarkable vaulted chamber on the third floor and a beautiful open space off of the Green Street entrance where students can meet, study, and exchange ideas
- Numerous seminar rooms and smart lecture halls with the latest IT links, and modern offices designed to foster interdisciplinary collaboration
- State-of-the-art laboratories for advanced courses and specialized research in areas including geophysics, geochemistry, sedimentology, earth materials, geomicrobiology, and remote sensing
- A biology honors suite
- Computer labs where students work with the latest geographic and remote-sensing data, model the Earth System, and explore mathematical models of biological processes
- A visualization studio where researchers can perform tasks such as analyzing satellite weather data to look into the eye of a hurricane, or analyzing satellite space mission data with NASA
- Specialized teaching facilities where students can learn how to build analytical instruments that can be used for microscopic analysis of earth materials, visualizing big data using geographic information systems, and other projects
Join us in building the future
This is a pivotal moment for the future of the Natural History Building. University funding will cover some of the renovations, but to achieve all of the building’s potential we need your help. The College of Liberal Arts & Sciences is offering a unique opportunity for alumni and others to invest in the future of the Natural History Building and also leave a legacy for future generations.
Every gift is important. The School of Earth, Society, and Environment, the School of Integrative Biology, and the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences are also allowing areas within Natural History Building to be sponsored and named in perpetuity to support the renovation. Some naming opportunities include:
- • School of Earth, Society, and Environment Student Commons
- • Integrative Biology Student Commons
- • Integrative Biology honors suite
- • Lecture hall
- • Classrooms
- • Seminar rooms
- • Research laboratories
- • Department head suites
Be a part of this historic undertaking to realize the full potential of the Natural History Building!
For more information
Senior Director of Development
School of Earth, Society and Environment
Associate Director of Advancement