John Friedman Alice Kimm Architects — Caltech’s Graduate Aerospace Laboratories sought to transform its outdated, 18,000-square-foot lab building into a dynamic environment that would reflect the new modes of research going on there. In response, the architects developed formal and spatial analogies to reflect the nature of this research. Leveraging the concept of flow—how solids, liquids, and gases behave under differential pressure—the design team renovated the lobby and created new teaching and research labs, exhibition areas, conference rooms, offices, and interactive spaces. The lobby incorporates a suspended plastic ceiling articulated in response to the light sources above. One former lab houses a small museum for research artifacts, and a second-floor conference room features a sound-absorbing felt ceiling. "What I liked is that they took a series of highly worked objects and wove them around the existing structure," Aaron Betsky said. "They let those objects define different aspects of the building and give them identity." "I love the enthusiasm of it," Marion Weiss said. "But I was hoping for a more rigorous variation of the playful graphic objectives they sought—some have stepped up, but others seem too much like retail architecture."

Project Credits

Client California Institute of Technology Architect John Friedman Alice Kimm Architects, Los Angeles—Alice Kimm (principal-in-charge); John Friedman (supporting principal); Claudia Kessner (project architect); Bob McFadden, Garrett Belmont, Brendan Beachler (project designers); Casey Hughes, Pamela Schriever (project assistants) Structural Engineer TMAD Taylor & Gaines Mechanical and Plumbing Engineer MEDG Engineers Electrical Engineer Pacific Engineers Group General Contractor Del Amo Construction Lighting Design Fire Ltd. (Jack Lue); Light Vision (Allan Leibow)