Rowell Brokaw Architects, PC


The UO and this lab are recognized as pioneers in Zebrafish research for genetics and neuroscience. This complex remodel and expansion to the main UO Zebrafish facility also included master planning and systems design that was instrumental in obtaining the National Institutes of Health C06 grant awarded to fund the project.

The project completely re-organizes lab workflow to enhance fish health and significantly increases capacity for fish husbandry and research procedures. To meet the increased load of a much larger facility, it introduced a sterile washing system that brings the lab to federal standards, including proper staging, intake dirty-side wash separate from a clean side wash with negative air pressure on the dirty side, and well-coordinated storage for sterile equipment. Aquatic fish facilities consume large amounts of water and energy. A key goal is to complete this expansion with no net increase in water or energy use. The project met SEED standards and achieved LEED certification.

Start with an existing basement aquatic research facility bound by concrete foundation walls, served by antiquated infrastructure and hampered by piecemeal growth. Transform the facility to be the international prototype for aquatic research, double its footprint, triple its holding capacity, and phase the renovation without ever shutting down the research or the aquatic life-support systems. And make it disappear.

This was the project scope for the University of Oregon’s Zebrafish Core Facility.

The Zebrafish is an ideal organism for genetic and developmental research due to the transparency of its embryo. This transparency allows genetic mutations to be tracked at early stages of embryonic development. An unobstructed view into the embryo is a powerful tool. Similarly, physical transparency was sought by the University to break down barriers between reseachers. Once a maze of segregatedrooms, the facility now connects research labs, research support and the Zebrafish aquatic environment.


Transparency is also used to conceal. In order to solve legacy issues left by previous construction, the project needed to pierce the surface landscape with a new exit stair. The intrusion of a built form within the formal campus quad was not acceptable to campus planners. The minimalist glass and steel structure lets the landscape flow through, like it is not there. Roofed with a single plate of solid steel, the form now contributes positively to the open space. It is a subtle folly punctuating the landscape and hinting at the life below ground.