LExC Construction

LExC Construction is Complete!

LExC Exterior alt

Panoramic view of LExC exterior, including the 'beamtube enclosure' segments that visitors will walk through on their way from the auditorium to LExC's exhibit hall. Credit: Caltech/MIT/LIGO Lab (Amber Strunk)

Construction of the LIGO Exploration Center (LExC) at LIGO Hanford Observatory (LHO) has concluded! The facility, designed by Terence Thornhill, Architect, and built by DGR Grant Construction, will soon become the hub for all LHO visitors. Until February 2020, LHO had used its main business reception area and auditorium as a base for tours (the auditorium will still be used for public talks and field trip groups).

LExC will be able to accommodate up to 10,000 field-trip students each year, in addition to many public visitors. This more than doubles the capacity for field trip visitors over what LHO was able to accommodate without a dedicated 'visitor education' center.

"Previously, we had been hosting 3,000 to 4,000 K-12 students a year, in addition to bringing our scientists into classrooms," says Amber Strunk, education and public outreach lead at LIGO Hanford Observatory. "But with the growing interest in LIGO and its ongoing discoveries, we wanted to reach and inspire even more students of all ages. Our experiential science center will support STEM education in the region by providing opportunities for teachers, students, and families."

Ultimately, the center will house 50 hands-on/interactive exhibits related to LIGO science and engineering.

The State of Washington granted LIGO Hanford Observatory $7.7M in May of 2019 to build a proper visitor education facility. You can read more about how that generous gift came to be HERE.

LExC gate valve and spool exterior

One of several LIGO artifacts on display outside of the LExC building. Here, visitors can closely inspect an old 'gate valve' showing some of the extreme engineering required to preserve LIGO's extreme vacuum system. Credit: Caltech/MIT/LIGO Lab (Amber Strunk)

LExC reception desk

LExC reception desk. Credit: Caltech/MIT/LIGO Lab (Amber Strunk)

LExC MC tube and ev charging station

LExC's parking lot includes 5 electric vehicle charging stations. Credit: Caltech/MIT/LIGO Lab (Amber Strunk)














15 Months in the Making

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.

New LExC drawing

From concept to reality. LIGO Hanford Observatory looks forward to completing the real picture of LExC by welcoming its first school buses. Click for full-size image. (Credit: Terence L. Thornhill, Architect.)

A groundbreaking ceremony to commemorate the beginning of construction of this long-awaited center took place on October 22, 2020. The ceremony began with LIGO Hanford Observatory Head, Mike Landry, acknowledging the ancestral land upon which LIGO is situated. A video of the occasion was made, including separate 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 HERE.





Construction Photos

August 2021

LExC's exterior is complete. What a beautiful building! Work continues inside, but we'll leave final interior pictures for our grand opening reveal. Stay tuned for those!

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 Administrator)


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

Construction 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 building 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)