Project Page – VIMS Eastern Shore Seawater Lab

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VIMS Eastern Shore Seawater Lab


Higher Education, Waterfront Development, Floodplain Design, Contextual Design


Excellence on the Waterfront Honors Award

American School & University Facilities Award for Best Institutional / Public Building

HRACRE Award of Honor for Best Institutional / Public Building

At the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS), the goal is to provide practical solutions that lead to a healthy coastal ecosystem.

Pre-existing conditions: VIMS’ Wachapreague campus lab was staged among four historic oyster shucking shacks with dirt floors. The actual site is “created land” from mounds of oyster shell deposits and the ground elevation is at sea level, located in a high hazard coastal flood zone. Consequently, each storm inundates the site with flood waters causing significant interruption to the field lab work.

LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION. Despite these conditions, VIMS insist on continued use of this property. It uniquely offers easy access to clean, high salinity seawater which allows researchers to observe marine organisms under conditions that mimic those of the coastal open ocean. The new facility provides flexibility, fresh air movement, natural daylight, survivability during hurricane force storms and quick recovery post storm events.

As the largest structure in town, the new lab blends with the character of this rural historic seaside fishing village. The design is inspired by the client’s work and the marine life they serve. Like a shark’s fin, it emerges sharply from the water of the creek and the sea of marina piles. Concrete foundation piles, pile caps and extended grade beams as the exterior walls are the heavy elements of anchorage. Raw materials and clean lines bring forward an appropriate aesthetic designed to withstand the environmental forces and provide functionality supportive of the scientists’ needs.

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VIMS Eastern Shore Seawater Lab And Context

Main Entrance

Tank Area

Lab Area

Pump House

Seawater Lab From Above

Floor Plan

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