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NIHERST Science City


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Project Name

NIHERST Science City


2,352,240 sq. feet


The National Institute of Higher Education, Research, Science and Technology (NIHERST)


  • Architects of Record: acla:works
  • Civil, Structural and MEP Engineers: CEP and Ramp Engineering

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Project Description


NIHERST’s brainchild, Science City is integral to fulfilling its mission to spur research and innovation, shape policy and improve STEM education for Trinidad and Tobago’s advancement. It will serve as a national and international case study on the merging of high performance landscapes and architecture to engage citizens, and develop technological innovation and entrepreneurial capabilities.

In close collaboration with NIHERST’s Board of Governors and staff, led by Professor Prakash Persad, and other leading national scientists, ArquitectonicaGEO is serving as landscape architect and design architect for NIHERST Science City. The multidisciplinary team consists of experts in science and education, including: Architects of Record, acla:works; Civil, Structural and MEP Engineers - CEP Ltd and Ramp Engineering Services Ltd.; Quantity Surveyors, BCQS; and Exhibit Designers, Thinc.

The primary design goals include: developing an exceptional model for designing sensitively within existing topography; restoring environmental function; and providing a fun and inspirational setting for science and technology education to serve as a national and international “edu-tainment” destination.

Science City will rise upon 54 acres of fallow agricultural fields. Development is hampered by expansive clay soils, seismic activity, and a 78 ft. elevation change across the site. Excessive sediment runoff due to abandonment of agricultural activity is a country-wide problem.

Visitors will circulate around and over a central lake, which will be formed through a series of dams around which learning landscapes and buildings will be arranged. Classroom, museum, and support buildings will allow interaction between visitors and the surrounding land and waterscapes.  The lake is an essential exhibit feature as viewed from the main building and patio. The outdoor rainforest serves as an exhibition hall, and the exhibit building creates shelter for the outdoor robotics exhibits. In this truly integrated project, there is no distinction between landscape and architecture. 

Extensive hydrological studies evaluated the viability of a lake, potential dam locations, and solutions to trap sediment from runoff and clarify water. The proposed hydrological system includes on and off-site surface drainage inputs, treatment wetlands, wells, rain gardens, riparian marshland, and bioswales, located and designed to supply clean water to the lake.  The lake’s water quality is dependent upon restoration of the landscape, and the spillway and hydroelectric plant will maintain the lake level and demonstrate the beauty and power of water. 

The comprehensive planting masterplan includes restoration of the native forest and associated ecological functions. Plant communities are grouped for value as exhibits of the diverse, often endemic plants from around the twin-island nation. Ongoing research and documentation will be instrumental in developing guidelines for future site restoration though reintroduction of native vegetation. The facility will have continuing, high level leadership, engagement and monitoring from NIHERST.

The entire site has been examined in an unprecedented, holistic manner by in-country experts invested in the success of the project. Options were selected based on the likelihood of significant environmental impact, enhanced experiential learning, aesthetic considerations for users and potential donors, and cost-effectiveness. Phased implementation will allow continued operation as later phases are constructed. Construction began in 2015.

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