The challenge was to create two separate buildings one for Bioengineering, the other for Genome Sciences designed eight months apart, constructed sequentially, and then linked to create inter-disciplinary opportunities. The combined building forms the western edge of a new quadrangle fronting the Health Sciences Campus, creating a landscaped vista that visually connects the historic central campus with Portage Bay. A main entrance between the wings forms a portal leading to the quadrangle and the University Medical Center.
Bioengineering consolidates and expands undergraduate teaching and graduate research programs in 110,000 square feet of wet laboratories, support spaces, computer laboratories, offices, and meeting rooms. Genome Sciences accommodates research activities in human genetics in 115,000 square feet of interchangeable wet and computational team-based research space, support spaces, offices, and meeting rooms. Shared spaces and general university facilities include a 200-seat auditorium, caf and noodle bar, and underground servicing.
The design process for the two wings of the building Bioengineering and Genome Sciences took place separately, yet CO Architects final design and program are unified and coherent, which is a testament to the collaboration of faculty, staff, and architects.
The building expresses its duality in both design and program and creates the western edge of the new campus green, extending from the campus at the north to the edge of the waterfront at the south. The buildings external materials address this transition between the campus architecture and the waterfronts marine environment. To the west, its public face, a rainscreen of terra-cotta tiles reinterprets the campus brick vernacular, while the east faade, facing the new quadrangle, expresses the cutting-edge research conducted inside using a glass and steel curtainwall with exterior sunshades.
The design elegantly unifies the two linked buildings, with common areas that choreograph chance meetings among researchers. An internal circulation spine connects three levels and descends 45 feet from the campus to the bay, drawing the university community through the building. Entries, lounges, reading spaces, and atrium are located along this internal street, leading to a caf with an outdoor terrace at the waterfront.
Both wings follow a similar plan organization, although laboratories were designed to accommodate the two departments differing research methods. Both have a similar infrastructure layout and use the same types of equipment to reduce maintenance costs and allow systems interoperability.
The buildings form was driven by the differing program requirements for each department. Genome Sciences, which is organized around large, multi-disciplinary teams working on small parts of larger projects, requires a flexible loft configuration allowing offices and computational spaces to be mixed with wet lab benches. All laboratories require secure access. In contrast, Bioengineering laboratories are designed for particular researchers directing individual projects, with support spaces forming clusters around these labs. This department also requires teaching laboratories. Therefore, the facility required zones that allow public access through both buildings while generating different laboratory configurations and creating secure areas for research.
The buildings spine connects three public levels, drawing in the campus community and allowing a large stretch of campus to be traversed while protected from inclement weather. These public areas include auditorium, caf and noodle bar, lounges, and conference rooms. Inside the research spaces, informal seating areas are located at the center of each floor, and are equipped with whiteboards to encourage impromptu discussions.
Externally, the main entry creates an easy portal from the new quadrangle to the adjacent medical campus while the southern terrace overlooks the bay and is accessible from the quadrangle and the building, establishing a vibrant gathering place.
Controlling sun exposure was a major goal in the design. The eastern faade features sunshades on the terra-cotta face of the building to shield laboratories located along this wall. Similarly, sunshades punctuate the western glass and steel faade, providing protection for offices, which also have access to natural ventilation through operable windows. A series of sunshades combine with terra-cotta baguettes on the northwestern faade to mitigate the low sun exposure. Bioengineerings HVAC system is optimized through the segregation of offices and laboratories. Genome Sciences offices are embedded into the laboratories so this optimization was not possible.
Bringing the two buildings together on this site was intended not only to unify the previously scattered bioengineering department and accommodate the growing genome sciences department, but also to promote collaboration between the two and spur inventive research. The buildings connect to form a tight urban plaza, allowing circulation through, and access to, both parts. The buildings are connected at every level above and below the ground floor with each floor housing conference rooms and lounge seating to encourage interaction by faculty and researchers. A security card reader at every floor provides needed protection with minimal physical interference.
The high water table, the depth required for the buildings subterranean service dock and vivarium, the requirement for a new central green, as well as finding a way of quickly enclosing the building were all factors in developing the construction methodology. Sophisticated deep watering and waterproofing systems were used to control the water table. A terra-cotta panelized rain screen system was put in place to keep moisture from entering the building envelope. And, to expedite construction further, large panels that span from floor to floor were pre-fabricated at a factory, then hoisted into place by crane.
Los Angeles-based CO Architects is a nationally recognized architecture firm known for its deep portfolio of academic, healthcare, and institutional projects. CO Architects has designed major benchmark and award-winning facilities for such clients as University of California seven campuses, Claremont Colleges, Los Angeles Community College District, five state university systems, and many private schools and colleges. CO Architects is sought after for functional, green, and graceful solutions for academic, civic and institutional needs, including facility evaluation,