The University of Idaho Integrated Research and Innovation Center (IRIC) is a campus centerpiece and a case study for the imaginative and untraditional. We conducted a Q&A with Principal Bryan Zagers to understand what made this project so special.
Q: Hi Bryan. To begin, can you give us an overview? What is the University of Idaho Integrated Research and Innovation Center all about?
BRZ: The Integrated Research and Innovation Center is a hugely important project to the university and community. It’s at the heart of the campus and, as its name implies, is a world-class facility designed for research and learning. It’s three stories of high-end labs, offices and collaboration spaces. Interestingly, it doesn’t belong to any one department, instead, it’s designed for flexibility and multidisciplinary research.
Q: Why is it special that the building doesn’t belong to one department?
BRZ: First, it breaks with tradition. At most universities, there’s a science building, a business school, and so on. The IRIC throws out that structure. As a project team, we noticed early on that University of Idaho was committed to doing things differently. The decision to make the IRIC interdepartmental, which is the foundation of the entire project and program, perfectly exemplifies their overall approach.
Second, it’s a significant philosophical departure from the norm. Instead of assigning one department to the space or designating the building for a specific type of research, they’re inviting multiple disciplines to do their work under one roof. It’s an attitude that feels more like that of The Allen Institute, a place with collaboration at its core.
Q: How did this attitude affect your team’s designs?
BRZ: It guided every decision we made. While some goals aligned with those of a traditional university (for example, it needed to be an impressive stop on tours, attracting top student and research science talent), most priorities were unique for a campus project, as it needed to be a place where both new students and accomplished scientists would feel at home.