LIGO Hanford will soon have its own dedicated visitor center called LExC, for LIGO Exploration Center. Designed by Terence L. Thornhill (Architect) and being built by DGR Grant Construction, LExC will accommodate up to 10,000 field-trip students each year, in addition to many public visitors. LExC will house 50 hands-on/interactive exhibits related to LIGO science and engineering. Credit: Terence L. Thornhill, Architect.

*NEW! LIGO Exploration Center*

Welcome to the LExC Construction Progress page!

Groundbreaking Attendees

Left to right: LExC Construction Manager Tim Doyea from DGR Grant Construction, LExC architect Terence Thornhill, LHO Education and Public Outreach Lead Amber Strunk, LHO Head Mike Landry, and LIGO Associate Director for Operations (and former LHO Head) Fred Raab.




Work has begun on the LIGO Exploration Center (LExC) at LIGO Hanford Observatory (LHO). The facility, designed by Terence Thornhill, Architect, and being built by DGR Grant Construction, will be located just to the east of LHO's current 'public' welcome building, which houses the auditorium, main LHO reception area, and some existing free-standing exhibits. In the next 15 months, however, a new, beautiful dedicated visitor center will become the hub for all LHO visitors.

A groundbreaking ceremony to commemorate the beginning of construction of this long-awaited center took place on October 22. The groundbreaking began with LIGO Hanford Observatory Head, Mike Landry, acknowledging the ancestral land upon which LIGO is situated. Due to COVID restrictions, we were unable to host a large, in-person groundbreaking event. Instead, just five people were on-site to ceremonially turn some dirt. A video of the occasion was made, including separate video clips of congratulatory remarks from government officials and others who supported LHO's bid to build this exciting facility. The 3.5-minute groundbreaking video, and full video statements of all who provided congratulatory remarks, can be found in a news item posted on October 23, 2020.

New LExC drawing

Current concept drawing of the LIGO Exploration Center, LExC. Click for full-size image. (Credit: Terence L. Thornhill, Architect.)

Building LExC at this time works out well since both LIGO facilities (LHO and the detector in Livinston LA) are currently not operating while another major upgrade to the instruments is being made. As a result, the vibrations caused by construction activities pose no threat to LIGO operations.

Since LHO remains closed to the public thanks to COVID-19, we will keep you posted on construction progress here by regularly uploading photos of the site. We hope you check back every so often to see LExC come to life. LExC hopes to welcome its first visitors in early 2022.


Note that LIGO Hanford Observatory remains closed to the public due to COVID-19 restrictions.


Latest Photos

Check here for regular photo updates showing the construction progress. The exterior is now basically done, so photos of interior work will be forthcoming.


August 2021

LExC's outside is now 99% complete. What a beautiful building! Work continues inside, and LHO education staff are currently busy tracking down exhibits that will fill the interior spaces.

LExC August 2021

LExC Exterior. Work continues inside the structure.


June 2021

LExC is starting to look like a real building now with exterior and interior walls quickly going up. 

LExC construction June 11

Top Left: The front face of LExC is looking more and more inviting as construction crews continue to forge ahead.  Bottom Left: Floor-to-ceiling windows will beautifully frame the view of Rattlesnake Mountain and the shrub steppe environment in which LIGO Hanford Observatory sits.   Right: Open 'rotunda' area inside the front entryway. (Photos by F. Armijo, LHO Site Adminstrator)


April 2021

So much has happened since our last post! Not only is the whole framework of the structure complete, but the framing walls are also now fast being built. Below are a few photos of the latest progress. Even the parking lot has been paved!

LExC construction April

The latest photo (large photo, right corner) shows that outer walls are being framed in. The panorama (great shot by LHO staffer, Keita Kawabe) at the bottom clearly shows the placement of LExC with respect to LHO's main reception building (those who have come on tours will recognize that building), the driveway, and Route 10. Even the parking lot has been paved!


March 8 - 12, 2021

LExC construction Mar 8 - 12

LExC rises from the ground. All the groundwork is done and foundations laid. LExC is now rising from the desert floor! Here, the main rotunda entryway structure is assembled. Rattlesnake Mountain rises in the distance. The public patio behind this main area will have a beautiful unobstructed view of the shrub steppe and Rattlesnake Mountain. Those who have visited LIGO Hanford Observatory will recognize the public parking lot in the top-right photo, showing them where LExC is situated. (Photo Credits: Top left: D. Savior. Top right: F. Armijo/LIGO Lab. Bottom two: B. Gately/LIGO Lab)


January 18 - 22, 2021

LExC construction Jan 18 - 22

Constrcution crews get an early morning start on pouring the building slab. The yellow plastic is a vapor/water barrier laid on top of a layer of compacted earth and gravel, which itself lies on top of the prepared natural ground below. It is all contained by a concrete 'border' that defines the contours of the building. The concrete is poured on top of the plastic barrier. In the large image (right), a construction crew member smooths out the concrete. The circle of concrete in the lower left image is the footing for the walls that will define the main, circular welcoming space for all LExC visitors. (Credit: Delise Savior)


LExC construction Jan 18 - 22

A 'before and after' shot of what will be the main entrance to the LIGO Exploration Center. At left, a substrate of earth and gravel is compacted to provide a level, stable, firm surface upon which the buliding slab will be poured. At right, some of the yellow moisture barrier is still visible while crews pour the slab of concrete. Steam rises as it begins to set. (Credit: Delise Savior)



November 7 - December 15, 2020

Updated lexc pic

Concrete poured for support standards for the parking area lighting.


October 23 - November 6

LExC construction Oct 23 to Nov 6

Early morning shot showing some trenches for utilities and other necessities for LExC. Some materials arriving at the LExC construction site LExC construction crews spray water on the construction site to minimize blowing sand (Credit: M. Robinson/LIGO Lab).