The Lee Institute at the University of New Haven is the flagship building on campus, housing the school's highly acclaimed College of Forensic Science. The primary design goal for the institute was to become the iconic image of UNH, announcing its emergence as a top-tier regional university. The institute is the fourth building on the UNH campus designed by Sasaki since 2006. The building is strategically located at the main entry to the campus and its design is as unique as its namesake, Dr. Henry Lee, who many consider to be the father of modern forensic science. Beyond its success as a transformative element, the process of bringing the Lee Institute to fruition exemplifies ingenuity and innovation. In the face of a significant economic downturn, the university was able to realize the project by reducing the structure's size, making it hyper-flexible and efficient, and ensuring that it offered something for everyone in the community.
The program for the Lee Institute includes classrooms and offices, crime scene investigation and exam rooms, a public learning center, and exhibition space showcasing Dr. Lee's artifacts, famous cases, and the science of forensics. The sculptural building is situated along a major east-west pedestrian path from the dining hall and student center to the recreation and residential precincts of the campus. The Lee Institute is clad primarily in zinc and glass, relating to the tectonics introduced in the other Sasaki projects on campus, but pushing the contemporary language much further with faceted wall planes, exquisite folds, varying patterns, and custom exterior sunshades.
The Lee Institute improves efficiency and flexibility on a campus that has a shortage of both general classrooms and the specialty spaces required for a sophisticated program such as forensic science. One tiered classroom of 100 fixed seats accommodates the program's largest lecture classes, and can be shared across other disciplines. Two smaller classrooms of 30 seats each are conveniently located in the first level. The ample lobby can serve as the starting point for public tours of the exhibit hall, or can be opened up to the raised outdoor entry plaza for elegant parties and social gatherings. The simple polished concrete floors and open ceilings provide flexibility for changing uses, displays, and lighting.
The upper floor houses Dr. Henry Lee's private office, which is announced on the exterior through a special window analogous to a keyhole beyond which lies a secret world. Dr. Lee's office suite borders the third floor concourse that overlooks the campus quad via a large ribbon window shaded by undulating zinc fins. The fins were custom designed to create ever-changing sun patterns on the interior surfaces of the waiting area. This gathering space also links Dr. Lee's office to the Command Center, a conference room that is equipped with state of the art technology and flexible power and tel-data. This room is designed and equipped to transform into a Command Center for state or national emergencies.