Prairie Springs Science Center - University of Wisconsin La Crosse

University of Wisconsin La Crosse SmithGroup
University of Wisconsin La Crosse SmithGroup
University of Wisconsin La Crosse

The University of Wisconsin La Crosse revamps its science program through the creation of a new science facility complex that will properly address the department’s evolving needs, while implementing a new programming model that seeks to arrange students and classrooms based on practice, rather than discipline.


University of Wisconsin-La Crosse


La Crosse, Wisconsin


Architecture, Higher Education, Interiors, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math)


187,600 GSF

Cowley Hall, the science facility at the University of Wisconsin La Crosse (UWL), was on its last leg. Its 1960s infrastructure made it outdated and unsuitable for the technology that today’s science programs require. The programs were growing substantially making the institution one of the science hubs of the University of Wisconsin system. This meant the University had to get creative on how they would reimagine the facility with what the budget would allow.

SmithGroup was brought on to create a design through a phased approach. The first phase of the project includes a new 191,000-square-foot building located immediately north of Cowley Hall to house the instructional and research labs for the university’s physical and life sciences programs. With more than ninety percent of the building dedicated to these labs, the new facility will alleviate the pressure on current laboratories and address the critical, immediate needs of the students and researchers.

Our team implemented programming of the building that is novel, as class labs are arranged not by department, but by theme. SmithGroup interviewed a variety of users during the planning process, leading us to a neighborhood concept that would best serve the research collaborations that are so central to student learning. Each floor is organized by groups adjacent in space comprised by biology or chemistry.

The second phase of the building project will include the demolition of Cowley Hall, to be replaced by a connected 148,000-square-foot structure to satisfy the balance of the program needs. These spaces include class labs, collaborative learning spaces, offices, conference rooms, and all other ancillary departmental and building support spaces.

Maximizing the impact of space, science, and the University’s educational reach, the new La Crosse science building ensures it remains competitive amongst its peers.