The Johnson Center Dedication Celebration

New Center for Science and Community Life at North Park University opens

This week, the new VOA-designed Nancy and G. Timothy Johnson Center for Science and Community Life opens at North Park University in Chicago. The new academic building is the culmination of a collaborative design process and the latest realization of an ongoing relationship between VOA and the Christian liberal arts university on the north side of Chicago.

As the principal architect on the project, one which VOA team members Jason Cofer, Susan Heinking, Dwayne McKenna, Clint Moewe, Andrej Mordzinski, Breah Page, JiHye Park, Gayle Soberg, Monika Thadhani and Matthew Zupancic all contributed, I’m taking this opportunity to reflect on our thinking behind various design features of the Johnson Center.


The Johnson Center for Science & Community, located at the northwest corner of campus, completes the campus green for North Park University. The building also defines the western pedestrian gateway to campus while framing the Brandel Library entry.

Many of the visual cues in the Johnson Center’s design are taken from historic campus buildings, specifically Old Main. The first floor is raised above the ground approximately five feet; the base of the building is stone masonry laid horizontally, evoking the Old Main foundation.  The upper stories of the Johnson Center are primarily masonry, in a lighter, more contemporary material called terra cotta rain screen. The building’s steel frame allows for large openings and abundant use of glass. The laboratories are in the horizontal spaces. Vertically glazed slots contain departmental faculty offices and places for informal student faculty interaction.


The interior of the Johnson Center fosters community building. The campus green rises gently to a center entrance containing a large two-story gathering space. Behind the glass façade at the center of the building are significant spaces like the top floor Helwig Boardroom. The entry floor was specifically designed to lead to all student support services and functions as well as connect strongly to the landscape.  Academic areas in the various sciences occupy the lower level and upper two floors.  At the south end, two-story gathering spaces reinforce internal community.

Johnson Center Opening (27)

The mathematical language of science is used throughout in art pieces and architectural detailing. Color throughout the Johnson Center aids in way finding and orientation. From the center of the building on the entry floor, a glimpse into a private prayer room reinforces the Christian identity of North Park University.

This Friday’s dedication events include a panel of experts discussing and analyzing the topic of health care coverage in American media in “Medicine & Media: Past, Present—and Future.” There’s an afternoon festival on the campus green celebrating the new facility and an official ribbon-cutting for the Johnson Center at 4:30pm. Saturday, the Johnson Center Community Open House invites the public in for refreshments and building tours. For a complete schedule of dedication events, visit

Photos: Johnson Center construction from start to finish at

Team: William Ketcham, Jason Cofer, Susan Heinking, Dwayne McKenna, Clint Moewe, Andrej Mordzinski, Breah Page, JiHye Park, Gayle Soberg, Monika Thadhani, Matthew Zupancic

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