Whitaker Hall Biorobotics Lab

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Washington University in St. Louis

St. Louis, Missouri

1,200 SF

In this ground-breaking new laboratory, engineers surgically implant neural monitors into the brains of locusts that allow researchers to monitor when the insects encounter certain odors. This technology was funded by the Office of Naval Research for the potential to sniff out explosives in remote areas. Unused space in Whitaker Hall was converted into a lab that allows researchers to observe the locusts in fight and train them for their work.

The glass-walled lab allows for “science on display,” where the team can give demonstrations of the growing technology. The renovated space showcases to the public, students, fellow researchers, and potential donors the important work being conducted, while displaying the synergy between the biomedical engineering and biology departments. Focal points of the room are permanent locust habitats, training tables, a fight-simulation wind tunnel, surgery center, and temporary holding spaces for the locust during demonstrations.

Due to the nature of research being conducted, all of the equipment used in this lab was custom-built by our designers. BSA’s mechanical engineers designed a one-of-a-kind
fight simulator for the locust. The sensitivity of the species required special attention to sound and temperature control in the laboratory.

Glass and natural colors keep the focus on the work, as well as dynamic lighting, textured wall finishes, and splashes of color to create a futuristic feel while also supporting Washington University in St. Louis’ brand. The lights and textured white wall are representative of locust wings on a cellular/microscopic level.


Architecture, Engineering, Interior Design, Planning