Guests of the Science Center at Puget Sound who enter the main lobby of Harned Hall from Union Avenue are witnesses to the remarkable care given to each detail of the building’s design, down to the cement panels embedded into the building’s front facade.
The flat panels are cast with what looks like the same design of rings and spheres. Actually, each panel is slightly different, as each is representative of one atom of a heavy element. Heavy elements formed by the nucleosynthesis inside stars are essential for forming planetary systems and the evolution of life. At the center of each panel are the element’s nucleus, surrounded by rings (showing the atom’s electron orbits) and spheres (electrons).
Framing the building's entrance are two curved cement panels cast with ancient and modern patterns. One is a Celtic image called the Tree of Life, a symbol significant in nearly every studied culture. With its roots reaching deep into the earth and its branches stretching toward the sky, the Tree of Life dwells in three realms—hell, earth, and heaven—and links between the past, present, and future. Trees have long been a symbol of the most basic life-giving force: a renewable source of sustenance, shelter, and fuel.
The second curved panel shows a spirograph. Amazingly, the pattern is created when the relative motion of Earth and Venus are charted and is called the Dance of the Planets. Both curved panels are framed by the Greek Key, an ornamental design of arranged vertical and horizontal lines often seen in Classical art and architecture and, incredibly, a design very similar to the folding patterns of proteins.