CDAs: Exact Sciences facility earns Project of the Year

Feature Cda Project Of The Year Panel

Early cancer detection as a means of fighting cancer is the mission of Exact Sciences Corp., a Madison-based molecular diagnostics company. Transforming an obsolete office building into an innovative showcase was the mission of an architectural design team that was tasked with shaping the company’s 265,000-square-foot Discovery Campus.

According to our panel of four Commercial Design Award judges, designers of this project from Potter Lawson succeeded with flying colors, bringing life back to a beautiful setting that had been dormant for several years and earning our Project of the Year distinction and winner in the Best Renovation–Office category.

“This is a well-thought-out transformation of an existing facility providing refreshed amenities and aesthetics and ready for supporting the company in the 21st century,” states one CDA judge. “The variety of materials, patterns, and forms combine as an eclectic kit of parts that create dynamic experiences for the company.”

Abundant amenities
The project is a redevelopment of the vacant Rayovac/Spectrum campus on a prominent spot on the Beltline, and its greenest, most sustainable aspect is that the rehabilitation of the existing building prevented the disposal of tens of thousands of tons of concrete and steel. Rehabbing enabled designers to expand an existing lobby to “connect with the language” of the new Amenities Facility addition, a key component of blending the old with the new.

The Amenities Facility is a four-story, 109,500-square-foot space adjacent to a Customer Service Center, and both buildings are served by a courtyard that features patios at different levels for gatherings and outdoor dining, terrace seating for an outdoor amphitheater, and connections to dedicated walking paths that meander around retention ponds and indigenous landscaping that are part of a rejuvenated prairie setting.

In developing the indoor environment, the design team also went outside, and in so doing knit the campus together. Designers produced an exterior curtain wall that provides optimal daylighting for a better connection to natural light, and the building was completely “reskinned” with different glass types that provide a clean, modern look. Deep overhangs and vertical solar fins are used to control solar gains during the summer while allowing natural light to penetrate deep into the office area during the winter.

Another CDA judge praised designers for an elegant, dynamic solution. The judge was particularly taken by the way a shade canopy worked to animate the outdoor space, calling it one of those elements that some view as superfluous but can be dramatic in terms of what it does to the space. “It’s a big project but they successfully created a lot of diverse kinds of spaces. It was kind of a generic building, so they really turned it into something special.

“The people who work in these [scientific or medical] facilities want their space to feel as innovative as the work they are doing. This project lives up to that. I think that’s why everyone was drawn to it, plus it’s a dramatic transformation.”

The existing post-tensioned, precast office building is not a flexible system, and it therefore required several innovations to overcome various design challenges. For example, anchoring the new curtain wall system to the existing post-tensioned slab required custom-designed anchors at every connection.

To foster direct employee engagement, especially the ability to present to full departments and groups of employees for announcements and other get-togethers, designers produced an attractive dining and collaboration area. It features a variety of different scaled gathering spaces on different levels and can be reconfigured as a conference and gathering area for more than 800 employees.

“There is something interesting and intriguing that’s happening on the floor plane, the wall plane, and the ceiling plane,” notes one CDA judge. “It’s a building that actually engages all of one’s senses in a much more holistic manner than a lot of buildings that look only at the horizonal surface. This is a building that seems to work really well in a spatial sense in terms of how people will actually use it.”

Another judge feels the project is very modern yet contextually relative to the high-tech work being done there, but it also has natural elements that make it a comfortable, inviting workplace. “A lot of times you see life-science buildings and spaces and they go very cold, but this one isn’t cold at all. It feels very warm and inviting, yet fresh and modern and contemporary and reflective of the type of work being done there.

“A lot of buildings have great sustainable elements, and this one did too, but you reach a certain bar, and you have to ask what differentiates it?” the judge added. “You can have a sustainable building that’s very ordinary, or you can have a sustainable building that’s very special, and this one was in that category in which sustainability was met but it was not met at the expense of design or craft.”

Overall assessment
Projects submitted for the 2021 CDAs were completed in calendar year 2020, which will forever be known as the most intense and economically destructive year of the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet that didn’t prevent CDA judges from being impressed with the overall quality of the project submissions, especially the sustainable aspects that include the adaptive reuse of existing buildings.

“I’m not surprised by that,” states one judge. “Wisconsin has always been a leader in terms of looking at its natural resources — and I realize that’s slightly different than sustainability — but it’s all really connected. Wisconsin is one of the cleanest states I’ve ever been in. There is no trash. You don’t often see things floating around or lying on the ground. There is a concerted effort by everyone in the state to keep it as beautiful as possible, and part of that is sustainability and making sure the resources in the old buildings get reused and repurposed. All the projects did a pretty good job of having the interior and exterior speak to each other.”


LOCATION: 1 Exact Lane, Madison, WI 53719
OWNER/DEVELOPER: Exact Sciences Corp.
CONSTRUCTION FIRM: J.H. Findorff & Son Inc.

Click here for the full CDA article from the April 2021 issue of In Business magazine.

Click here to view a gallery of photos from this project.


Introducing the CDA judges

Barbara Felix Lafonda CmykBarbara J. Felix, AIA, founding principal, Barbara Felix Architecture + Design

Barbara Felix, an award-winning architect, founded Barbara Felix Architecture + Design in Santa Fe, New Mexico, in 1998. Recognized for its Native American, hospitality, and historic preservation projects, the firm combines her passions for southwest culture, love of history, and common-sense sustainability practices. Originally from Michigan, she obtained both her Bachelor of Science and Master of Architecture degrees from the University of Michigan. She is past president of AIA Santa Fe and AIA New Mexico.

Ia John Hopkins CmykJohn Hopkins, design director, IA Interior Architects, Chicago
John Hopkins, AIA, LEED AP is an award-winning design director. He has over 30 years of experience in providing interior architectural services for several Fortune 500 companies, including Bank of America, IBM, and Whirlpool. He earned a Master of Architecture from University of Illinois at Chicago and a Bachelor of Science in Architecture from University of Michigan, and he has worked on multiple LEED certified projects, including the Whirlpool LEED Platinum North American headquarters.

Marcmanack 0055 CcMarc Manack, AIA, NCARB, principal, Silo AR+D, Charlotte, N.C.

Marc Manack is the founding principal of SILO AR+D, an architecture, research, and design practice whose work has been awarded nationally and internationally and has been recognized as a “Next Progressive” by Architect magazine. He is an associate professor at the University of North Carolina–Charlotte School of Architecture and taught previously in the University of Arkansas’ Fay Jones School of Architecture and Ohio State University’s Austin E. Knowlton School of Architecture.

Russellmanthy CmykRussell Manthy, principal, IA Architects, New York City

Russell Manthy’s 32 years of project experience span a significant range of project types and industries, including technology, manufacturing, educational, and not-for-profit institutions and organizations. A native of Chicago, he has a Bachelor of Architecture degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and he has worked with many well-established clients on large-scale projects, including Bank of America, Facebook, the American Medical Association, and Salesforce.

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