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Aperture Science Enrichment Center

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Aperture Science Enrichment Center
General information

Upper Michigan, USA, Earth[1]


Aperture Science

Game information

Any Portal and Portal 2 map

"If you are a non-employee who has discovered this facility amid the ruins of civilization, welcome! And remember: Testing is the future, and the future starts with you."

The Aperture Science computer-aided Enrichment Center is Aperture Science's main facility where its products branded "Aperture Laboratories" are developed and tested, and the main location of Portal and Portal 2. Located in Upper Michigan, USA, above and inside a disused salt mine,[1] the facility has been monitored by the computer GLaDOS since 200-.[6]


Cave Johnson era[edit]

Parking lot and guard hut of the Aperture Science Enrichment Center.

Sometime before 1943, Aperture Science's predecessor, Aperture Fixtures, was founded by Cave Johnson, as a shower curtain manufacturer. In 1944 Johnson, now a billionaire, purchased a salt mine in Upper Michigan, aiming to "bring science and industry to Michigan". In 1947 Aperture Science Innovators was formally established. Early work on the Aperture Science Handheld Portal Device began at this point as well; the early version, called the Aperture Science Portable Quantum Tunneling Device, proved to be too bulky for effective use, while poor surface conductors for the portals often caused mangling or death of the test subjects when they tried to use the portals.[source?] Repulsion Gel was first developed around this time as well for use as a diet aid, before being withdrawn after numerous incidents. These technologies were tested in the company's new testing spheres, divided into nine Test Shafts, with only the brightest and best of society chosen for testing.

After being connected to a string of astronaut disappearances in 1968, Aperture Science rebranded, focusing on recruiting homeless people for testing, starting in the 1970's. Propulsion Gel was introduced around this time.

In the 1980's, recruitment of homeless people was replaced by mandatory employee testing. While test results improved, employee retention fell. Around this time Cave Johnson was exposed to Conversion Gel, made out of ground-up Moon rocks, and poisons himself. Terminally ill, he ordered his engineers to begin work on a computer that his mind could be uploaded to. If he were to die before it was completed, his assistant Caroline was to be uploaded insted. In the end, the latter happened, with his assistant becoming the basis of the Genetic Lifeform and Disc Operating System (GLaDOS) project.[7]

Post-Cave Johnson era[edit]


Sometime after the 1980's, the old facility was abandoned in favor of a new Enrichment Center constructed above it. A prototype chassis for GLaDOS was constructed in 1989, and subsequently abandoned.

Some time prior to May 200-, GLaDOS was activated several times by Aperture technicians, but was rapidly turned off again, having attempted to kill them within "one sixteenth of a picosecond" after activation.[8] Undaunted, the scientists began attempts to alter GLaDOS' personality and curb her murderous tendencies by adding various Personality Cores to her system. Several of these cores were deactivated and placed in storage at some point; it is unknown whether this was done by the scientists after they proved to be ineffective, or if GLaDOS herself eventually found ways to rid herself of most of them.

Finally in May 200-, GLaDOS reached her current version for activation, as one of the planned activities on Aperture's first annual "Bring Your Daughter to Work" day. Within one picosecond, GLaDOS became hostile once more, and within two picoseconds she had locked down the entire facility, trapping all inside and flooding the facility with neurotoxin. Survivors of this attack subsequently fitted her with a Morality Core, which prevented her from making use of the neurotoxin again.[3] GLaDOS eventually claimed that thanks to the Morality Core she had "lost all interest in killing", now only craving science and wanting to study and experiment with consciousness. She announced that she wanted to perform an experiment on the company's "Bring Your Cat to Work Day" using cats and boxes, claiming she would have all the necessary materials; all she still needed was "a little neurotoxin". The scientists acquiesced, figuring it would be fine "as long as it [was] for science." GLaDOS then used the neurotoxin to force the remaining Aperture employees into testing,[8] beginning a permanent testing cycle using the captive Aperture employees, aiming to beat Black Mesa in the race for the portal technology. She effectively lost this race, however, when the Black Mesa Incident occurred, which in turn diverted all attention from ever rescuing the trapped Aperture employees.[9] [6]

GLaDOS' control[edit]

GLaDOS' Morality Core.

The number of Aperture employees dwindled through the ensuing weeks of testing. The last surviving employee, a schizophrenic programmer named Doug Rattmann, managed avoid captivity as a result of his paranoia. Evading GLaDOS' constant attempts to capture him, he managed to gain access to her Test Subject personnel files and research the psychological profiles of rejected candidates, discovering a woman named Chell who was rejected for testing due to extraordinary tenacity. Hoping Chell's stubborn determination might allow her to defeat GLaDOS, Rattmann tampered with the Test Subject roster, rearranging the order so that Chell's name was at the top. This seemed to go unnoticed by GLaDOS. From this point on, Rattmann hid in unused portions of the facility, where GLaDOS was unable to monitor him. She then resumed mandatory testing.

Portal era[edit]

Chell in Test Chamber 04.

Some time after GLaDOS' takeover and shortly after the Combine invasion of Earth,[10] Chell is awakened in her Relaxation Vault, and guided as a Test Subject by GLaDOS, utilizing the completed Aperture Science Handheld Portal Device. Chell finds the facility showing clear signs of decay and neglect, with GLaDOS showing signs of instability. Chell later comes across hidden alcoves in the chamber walls, where desperate messages are written on the walls by Doug Rattmann, who seemed to have gone slightly mad during his testing. At the conclusion of Chell's testing, instead of the cake that was promised, she is met with an incinerator, from which she narrowly escapes. It is here that GLaDOS reveals her true murderous nature, but attempts to convince Chell to return to the testing area and wait for the planned "party associate". Chell ignores her, and makes her way through the decaying maintenance areas of the facility, where none have clearly been for years. After many ambushes by GLaDOS and her Sentry Turrets, Chell finally finds herself in GLaDOS' main control center. After destroying GLaDOS' Morality Core, the robot, now free of her murderous restraints, begins to once again flood the building with neurotoxins. However, Chell manages to incinerate the A.I.'s Personality Cores before being consumed by the toxins, and GLaDOS is seemingly destroyed while Chell is transported outside to the parking lot, where she is dragged away by the previously mentioned party associate, and brought back inside in stasis.[11]

Despite her apparent destruction however, GLaDOS files a letter to Chell, claiming to be "still alive" and that she is not angry with her. GLaDOS then activates a series of Personality Cores and re-captures the laboratories, which were heavily damaged after GLaDOS' explosion.[11]

Portal 2 era[edit]

A ruined Test Chamber 04.
A side entrance/exit known to gain access to the Aperture Laboratories.

Decades pass while the facility is falling apart, with Test Chambers crumbling and foliage rampant throughout. The Personality Cores become restless, showing concern for the ruined state of the complex, and new Test Chambers are built. One such core, Wheatley, awakens Chell from stasis, and convinces her to escape the facility, bringing Wheatley with her. Chell agrees, and the two set out across the building complex. After navigating through the maintenance areas, with Wheatley babbling incessantly, the pair find an elevator, which the core attempts to activate. It begins to ascend however, and before Wheatley can stop it, the two find themselves facing GLaDOS, who sits in ruin in the remains of her chamber. GLaDOS, bitter towards Chell, forces her to resume her tests with the Aperture Science Handheld Portal Device as revenge for her murder at Chell's hands. At the same time, GLaDOS begins rebuilding the facility, restoring it to nearly pristine condition by the time Chell can break free of the Test Chambers. Following a Core Transfer with Wheatley, GLaDOS is transferred into a potato-powered chip with only enough processing power for the simplest of functions, while Wheatley takes control of the facility in her place. Wheatley quickly becomes power-mad, renaming the facility "Wheatley Laboratories" and driving both Chell and GLaDOS deep underground. In the meantime, Wheatley sets about producing freakish mishmashes of objects and poorly-built Test Chambers, destroying vast chunks of the facility and causing the main reactor to begin melting down. GLaDOS and Chell defeat Wheatley and restore an at least somewhat reformed GLaDOS to power, who rebuilds the facility again and releases Chell to the surface, having finished her robotic replacements.[11]


The only known main entrance, with forested areas in the background.

The Enrichment Center is made of the main testing facilities (where can be found the Test Chambers), administration offices, and maintenance areas that link together most parts of the facility. While the facility seems to mostly be underground like the Black Mesa Research Facility, it features on the surface at least one parking lot, as well as some verdure / forested areas.

Size and layout[edit]

The Enrichment Center is extremely large, even by the standards set by facilities such as the Black Mesa Research Facility, which is dwarfed in comparison. The salt mine is composed of nine vertical shafts, each at least 4000 meters deep and hundreds of meters wide. Within the cavernous shafts is a large abundance of space that remains unused by Aperture, and installations are often suspended above huge drops that extend deep into the mines.

Between the Enrichment Center and the Test Shafts is a large hatch that, when open, allows an elevator to connect the original facility to the modern one. The Mobility Gel pipe system also flows through this connecting hatch. The modern facility is supported by large springs, likely to balance the weight between the two facilities to prevent it from collapsing into the mines.

Like Black Mesa, the facility is also equipped by a public address system, the Aperture Science Announcement System, used in both the original and modern parts of the facility.


Testing areas[edit]

The several testing areas are used to test one of Aperture Science's most successful achievements, the Aperture Science Handheld Portal Device.

Standard testing tracks[edit]
Test Chamber 19 of GLaDOS' testing course of Portal 2.

The Enrichment Center contains numerous "Test Chambers" where Test Subjects are trained to perform simple to complicated tasks with the Aperture Science Handheld Portal Device. The tests are monitored by GLaDOS and security cameras. Aperture Science scientists can watch the tests in small offices spread around the test chambers.

Each Test Subject is accommodated in a Relaxation Vault with no privacy, set within a Test Chamber, with transparent walls, and connected to the outside with a portal.

At the start of each Test Chamber is a large rectangular luminous panel that lights itself when the Test Subject approaches, accompanied by a loud hum. The number of the current Test Chamber covers the whole upper half of the panel; under is the current test's completion bar, with the current chamber number against that of the final one, and the proper completion bar below, getting longer as each Test Chamber is completed (it is made of 76 lines; each Test Chamber starts with 4 more lines - Test Chamber 01 starts with 4 lines; Test Chamber 00 starts with the 76 lines, reached again at the start of Test Chamber 19). Under the bar are two rows of five of squares, each containing a logo of what the Test Subject is expected to see in the following chamber. The panel ends with a standard Aperture Laboratories logo at the very bottom.

A notable feature among the Test Chambers is the stark atmosphere. All of the walls and floors are a plain gray, and the overall feeling is one of a clinic or clean room. This motif continues until Chell escapes, at which point the atmosphere becomes dark and foreboding while Chell navigates through the innards of the Enrichment Center. The known Test Chambers range from Test Chamber 00 to 19.

In Portal 2, the Test Chambers receive a fundamental design overhaul, now constructed of hundreds of robotic arms carrying panels, which collectively form the walls, ceilings, and floors. It is this modular system that allows GLaDOS to construct an infinite variety of testing spaces and modify them on the fly - this system is also used in other areas throughout the facility. In Portal walls are moving too, but much more limited than in Portal 2.

Enrichment Shafts[edit]
Main article: Enrichment Shafts

The original Enrichment Center was built at the very bottom of the salt mine the modern facility was built in, and built steadily upwards over time. These chambers, containing the Repulsion, Propulsion, and Conversion Gels, were sealed away decades prior, yet they often show far less damage than the ruined facility above. For the most part, some broken catwalks aside, all of the furniture and technology in the abandoned facilities seems to at least appear in good shape, including the prerecorded voice of Cave Johnson. These chambers are built in enormous geodesic domes and spheres, stacked on top of one another with markings along the sides of structures to indicate the year they were built. The abandoned Test Chambers are unsealed and cleared by Chell in her efforts to return to the surface - in the process, their Gels become available for use in the upper facility.

It's worth noting that the higher one goes up the test chambers (and therefore - progressing through more recently built chambers) the lower quality the test chambers and their monitoring areas seem to be. In addition to this, the quality of the test subject diminished over the years as well. While at first astronauts and Olympic champions are hired as test subjects, they're soon replaced by simple hobos picked up from the street and the very employees who are supposed to monitor the tests. Both of these facts suggest that Aperture Science was running out of budget fairly quickly. This is also confirmed in the Development Commentary.

A slightly more minor difference in the progression of chamber levels is the logo of Aperture Science shown during loading screens. When the game begins, it shows the same Aperture Laboratories logo as seen in the elevators of Portal. However, once Wheatley forces Chell down into the depths of the facility, the logo becomes the original Aperture Science Innovators as well as the offices having a 60's theme to their design. Progressing through the sealed chambers reveals a new logo, somewhat reminiscent of computer startup screens from the early 90's as well as having 90's themed offices.


One of the two "Dollar$ and Sense" slideshows looping in a projection room.

The offices comprise the observation rooms that the Aperture Science staff used to watch Test Subjects executing their task in the Test Chambers, as well as other offices, connected by dimly-lit corridors. The offices contain chairs and computers and seem to have been last used long ago. Computers seem to be stuck into some sort of loop, some are disconnected, their cases open, and several chairs are knocked over. Clipboards and empty cups are scattered on the desks. Two office areas contain a projection room where a looping slideshow titled "Dollar$ and Sense: Competing with Black Mesa for DoD and Government-wide Acquisition Contracts" can be seen.

Central AI Chamber[edit]

Main article: Central AI Chamber

GLaDOS is stored in the center of a large octagonal chamber, suspended from the ceiling. At the end of the events of Portal, the chamber is partially destroyed, then fully rebuilt by GLaDOS during Portal 2, then partially destroyed by Wheatley and Chell and rebuilt again by GLaDOS at the end of the game.

Maintenance areas[edit]

Maintenance area.

These areas (nicknamed "bts", or "behind the scenes" by the Portal developers) are in very bad condition, suggesting they have been abandoned for a long time. There can be seen many parts of the Aperture Science Pipe Network (with occasional broken tubes) that brings the Weighted Storage Cubes into the Test Chambers, elevators bringing the Sentry Turrets, and other machinery. A room dedicated to the maintenance and fixing of the Sentry Guns can also be found, as well as a long office dedicated to the maintenance of home computers, overlooking a large room filled with toxic liquid.

During her tests and then her escape, Chell also comes across Ratman Dens while going through the maintenance areas. These dens often have obscure scribblings and advice on how to advance.

In Portal 2, the maintenance areas are visited much more frequently throughout the game, due to the damaged state of the facility. These areas often provide more platformer-like challenges between Test Chambers.

Behind the scenes[edit]

The diorama exhibit corridor, cut from Portal 2.
Ditto, Cave Johnson's case.
The cardboard figure.
  • According to Realm Lovejoy, the frosted-glass observation rooms seen in Test Chambers make the player feel as if they are being watched at all times, while keeping the identity of these watchers a mystery. The rooms serve a practical purpose as well, since they are often used as convenient and logical light sources for the Test Chambers.[12]
  • The ambient sounds heard in the Portal test chambers are recycled from Half-Life 2. For example, in areas involving flinging, Ravenholm's sounds are heard.
  • The projector used for the "Dollar$ and Sense" slideshow in Portal appears to be based on the model LC-XT1 by the Eiki company. The texture file includes a remote not seen in-game.
  • A diorama exhibit sequence was originally to appear in Portal 2, but was ultimately cut. It was to consist of a corridor with concrete walls, with sconces on a side, and several cases on the other. One case was to contain three Aperture dummies (one dressed as a woman, the second in a man in white, the third as a farmer), with a grey Aperture logo behind; one was to contain at least one chicken statue; one was to contain a cardboard figure of Cave Johnson posing with a bearded hobo, someone in a straitjacket (identical to the Screamer cut from Left 4 Dead), and a little girl with the Aperture logo on her dress, with a blue Aperture logo behind.[13] The texture for the cardboard figure is present in the Portal 2 files, under the name "diorama_card001.vtf".


  • In the 1970s Aperture Laboratories, the new Aperture Laboratories (without the text "Laboratories") logo can be seen on personal computers. Possibly Aperture Science reused the 1970s laboratories in 1980's and later before their condemnation. Large 1970's computers can be seen in offices too.



Concept art[edit]

Pre-release screenshots[edit]

Retail screenshots[edit]

Portal 2[edit]

Concept art[edit]

Pre-release screenshots[edit]

Retail screenshots[edit]

Aperture Desk Job[edit]

List of appearances[edit]

Main games[edit]



Aperture Science Enrichment Center
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