La Jolla Laboratory Replacement Project - Innovative Design

In 2007, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) initiated the La Jolla Laboratory Replacement Project on the campus of Scripps Institution of Oceanography, U.C. San Diego. Funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), the new construction will replace the existing Southwest Fisheries Science Center (SWFSC) laboratory with a state-of-the-art research facility. Matching NOAA Fisheries Service’s commitment to promoting sustainability in marine ecosystems, the new building incorporates sustainable “green” design features throughout.

Upon completion, the new facility will include 125,000 square feet of office and laboratory space for 275 scientists and support staff in addition to experimental aquaria, extensive research collections, a library and a unique multistory, 500,000-gallon Ocean Technology Development Tank.  Underground parking will have space for 200 vehicles and charging stations for electric cars. NOAA is pursuing Gold certification of the building under the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System.  Occupancy is expected in 2012.                                                                          

Innovative Design and Construction

The new building’s architects were challenged to design a facility that would pay homage to the world class site and take advantage of the local climate while providing for the ever-changing needs of science.  The design also needed to continue the legacy of open architecture from the original SWFSC laboratory by providing a physical environment conducive to promote interactions among researchers from different disciplines. 

The building site is perched at the head of the underwater La Jolla Canyon and adjacent to the San Diego-La Jolla Underwater Park and Ecological Reserves which spans approximately 6000 acres of nearshore habitat. 

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Site Context – Gould Evans

The design team selected by NOAA included architectural firm Gould Evans, who coordinated the team’s nine architectural and engineering companies. The local construction firm, Rudolph and Sletten was selected as the general contractor.

The architects drew inspiration from the undersea topography and coastal cliffs, creating a building that responds contextually to the landscape as an extension of La Jolla canyon.They also drew upon regional design characteristics – courtyards and exterior walkways - typical of southern California and which date to back to the Spanish Colonial period. 

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Typology / Southern California Courtyard Vernacular – Gould Evans

The new building steps back as it moves up the hill, placing support spaces toward the hill and personnel spaces toward the ocean view.  This design, when combined with the mild coastal microclimate, allows for many green building opportunities such as vegetated roofs and natural ventilation and lighting. The modern facility is broken down into smaller structures which are clustered in “villages” to avoid the feeling of a single large building.

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      Exterior - Gould Evans

The smaller elements are organized around atrium courtyards. These are the centers of activity that enable researchers to connect for impromptu meetings. The courts and patios take full advantage of the mild coastal climate and promote natural ventilation. The split floor plan with narrow floor plates maximizes sunlight and views. The design relates to the natural topography of the site and capitalizes on the ocean views. The iconic Scripps pier is echoed in the wooden slat ceiling in the public lobby.   

Entry, Terrace and Lobby Composite2


 Entry, Terrace, and Lobby  - Gould Evans

Projected as a continuation of the submarine canyon topology below, the stepped terrace design opens to the ocean below.  The design increases the availability of views for resident researchers and visitors.  Seen from the street as it curves down the hill, the design miraculously minimizes the appearance of a tall building and maintains public view corridors out to the Pacific.

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       View from the third floor - Gould Evans

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Existing site – Gould Evans 

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Existing site with building projection – Gould Evans 

The landscape design was chosen to blend into the existing hillside using native coastal chaparral.  Areas to the south and west will be re-vegetated while undisturbed areas to the north and east will be preserved and invasive species will be removed.  Walking pathways to Scripps Institution of Oceanography will be re-established.