Department of Biology at Colorado State University

In its new, state-of-the art building, the Department of Biology strives to immerse its students, faculty and public in the power of biology. What began as a limited plan for new branding displays evolved significantly as Studio Tectonic led Department and University stakeholders in a more ambitious re-envisioning. We helped planners see how exhibits could provide inspiration, make emotional connections, create intrigue, and satisfy users aesthetically while maintaining academic rigor. The exhibits line the public halls adjacent to lecture halls, student labs and administrative offices.

The exhibits have been designed to engage with the interior architecture and finishes, but also to stand out from the background and make themselves a clear focus within the 151,000 square-foot building. The exhibit design references biological forms, interpreted within clear geometries. The design team conducted a complete inventory of the department’s collection, which provided rich options for displays. Additional objects were purchased or commissioned.

Each exhibit area connects to broader biological themes such as scale, reproduction, and information flow. Texts mounted on large circles of metal-edged beetle kill pine identify the themes of the various locations: each text is extruded from the pine and pushes through graphics and object cases. Painstakingly selected images express the breadth of biology’s life forms, from molecular to planetary. Object cases embedded within the images feature text-free challenges to interpretation, inviting observation and conceptual thinking.

Study areas and communal whiteboards in the hallways reflect the same design thinking as the exhibition elements. Smaller interpretive locations offer poetic expressions of biological thinking. Large backlit object cases feature highlights of the collection, artfully mounted.



Colorado State University Biology Department


Fort Collins, CO



Higher Education

Science | Natural History | Technology



Haselden Construction / Hord Coplan Macht Architects: Design/Build

Acme Scenic: Exhibit Fabrication

Hefferan Lighting Partnership:
Lighting Design

Avalis Wayfinding: Wayfinding Fabricator

This project may be the first of its kind: an exhibit display integrated within a higher education teaching space. The CSU Biology Department serves as a shining example of the results that are possible when a design team and client work in true partnership.
All of the displays demonstrate a close attention to detail and clarity of thinking. The exhibits challenge their audience, and provide inspiration for those just beginning their education in biology.
As students’ knowledge and understanding grow, these biological specimens and concepts grow more and more meaningful, and confirm their evolving mastery.