Natural Sciences Laboratory Building

University of California, San Diego, San Diego, California

The Natural Sciences Building comprises research and teaching labs, a rodent vivarium, a nuclear magnetic resonance pavilion, and suites for departmental deans, housed in a 180,000-square-foot, reinforced concrete structure. Located at a prominent campus gateway, the site formerly served as a parking area and pedestrian, service and emergency circulation for the surrounding concrete, 1960s modernist buildings.

The six-story building's L-shaped plan defines three distinct outdoor courts. The academic court, with its grove of jacaranda trees and granite paving, lies to the east forming a common entry plaza for the Natural Sciences Building and two adjacent laboratories. The green court extends the lobby space in the inner corner of the "L," preserving and expanding a swath of evergreen trees. The service court to the south provides shared vehicle access for the laboratory, the adjacent commons building, and a future lab to the south. The main entrance on the eastern end faces the campus, while offices, conference rooms and balconies face the ocean.

California's mild climate permitted the use of an exposed concrete structure throughout, allowing its rhythmic expression to establish the building envelope's composition. Structural mass dampens vibration, permitting the use of sensitive instruments throughout the facility. Concrete beams and columns on the facades define glass-filled cells. The glass plane is set back from the outer edge of the structural elements to provide shade. The outermost layer is a system of horizontal fin sunshades mounted on vertical metal armatures applied to all building faces. Multiple sunscreen layers, expressed structural elements, and textured precast panels create a dynamic wall system enlivened by the interplay of light and shadow.

Bohlin Cywinski Jackson served as both Design and Executive Architect for the Natural Sciences Laboratory Building. Architects Bundy & Thompson of San Diego was our Associate Architect.


2007 Merit Award for Design
AIA Pennsylvania
2005 Honorable Mention
PCI Design Awards
2004 Energy Effieciency Integration Award
AIA San Diego and San Diego Electric & Gas
2004 Honor Award for Design
AIA San Deigo
2003 Merit Award
AIA Pittsburgh
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