University of California San Diego Cal-IT2 Building

Following the launch of a state initiative to keep California at the forefront of technological innovation, the University of California envisioned a network of four institutes that would use collaboration to address large-scale societal issues. Calit2, the second of them, was established at UC San Diego, one of the nation’s highest-ranked research institutions.

Every aspect of its design is inspired by the vision of interconnected, ubiquitous broadband wireless communication, and the mission to develop new strategic applications through public-private partnerships. Providing some of the most advanced facilities in the nation, the building includes clean rooms, micro-electro-mechanical labs, immersive virtual reality, and ultra-high-def digital cinema.

The dynamic balance of the building’s form expresses the coexistence of related but opposing forces. The rectangular form on the courtyard side houses the building support systems and lab functions while the curvilinear form on the canyon side provides open-plan collaboration spaces. Inside the building, faculty offices form the perimeter of the upper levels and define the open areas of the research cluster.

The building’s infrastructure is designed to accommodate nearly two million feet of Ethernet cable and 150 optical-fiber links with UCSD campus networks. Ethernet trays are exposed for ease of access and to communicate a strong message about the purpose of the facility. Its interiors provide long-term adaptability, nurturing collaboration at many levels with spaces for both one-on-one meetings (laboratories and offices) and larger-scale interactions (visualization rooms and the black-box theater).

The materials also support Calit2’s mission. The design team discovered ordinary metal and even glass were too “opaque” to wireless signals, so initiated an intense study into the building’s structure, which led to the use of an innovative composite material called Trespa for the exterior. The innovative composite façade minimizes blocking electromagnetic waves, and a steel structural system makes it easier to map interference points.

Technology, embraced as a unifying element, informs the building’s character, shaping work spaces around the performance of the systems and the researchers who bring it to life. As the future of wireless and communications technology continues to transform the world around us, Calit2 and its research will continue to evolve and meet new needs.


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