Charles David Keeling Apartments
Commanding attention from the passersby, the Charles Keeling Apartment building bends to follow the curve of Torrey Pines Road and reveal its striking concrete forms.As one nears, it becomes clear that this “handsome and serious complex” is not only thoughtfully designed, but executed impeccably, as well.
The first residential structure in the UC system to achieve LEED Platinum rating, just a few of the less visible features of the project include an on-site water recycling program and a rooftop photovoltaic array that supplies renewable energy . Some of the more visible include playful dormitory window placement, clever open spaces between the buildings, inviting exterior walkways and an impressive rooftop garden. The predominantly cast-in-place concrete structure is softened appropriately by the layering of sun-shading screening elements along each elevation, creating a playfulness between
solid and void and providing an alluring visual intensity, consistently changing with the rise and set of the sun. The architect’s arrangement of the buildings around the courtyard to allow for natural cooling from the ocean, and the successful integration of the landscape architecture with that of the building reinforced the notion “that a building doesn’t have to scream and shout to be great.”
- Project Address: 9500 Gilman Dr., La Jolla, CA 92093
- Project Owner/ Developer: University of California, San Diego
- Owner Contact Name/ Email: Charles S. Kaminski / firstname.lastname@example.org
- Project Architect/ Designer: KieranTimberlake
The wonderful design for the Keeling Apartments at UC San Diego cannot be understood at first glance. It is clearly a second or third glance architectural design, with a substance made up in detail of execution, program amenity, and responsiveness to the La Jolla micro-climate. If one looks closely at the community created by the landscape and buildings, and the subtleties of the design choices made, an inner beauty of holistic expression is carried throughout. This beauty is only discovered by walking around the complex and understanding how it works.
In addition to having exceptional environmental performance, tackling issues of water management and carbon emissions, they are beautifully executed. The fine craftsmanship of the cast concrete work (white cement, not standard concrete), left exposed inside and out, shows in the surfaces, corners, and reveals. The effect of the various cladding and shading systems is an interesting visual depth in the facade that changes throughout the day as lighting conditions shift. There are plenty of outdoor spaces—a courtyard, rooftop terrace, and exterior walkways, from which to experience this phenomenon.
Three apartment buildings are arranged in a c-shape around a courtyard that creates a nice social zone and unites it with the existing 1960s Fleet residences to the east, making a community for students. This arrangement is also part of the cooling strategy for the buildings, which rely on coastal breezes instead of mechanical systems. They adopt the right elements from the classic campus buildings; exterior walkways, repetitive sun control elements, and a warm color palette, but are firmly rooted in a 21st century aesthetic that unites form and performance.
For example, to block strong afternoon sun, deep overhangs shade the southern facades and industrial fiberglass screens shade the west. The fiberglass screens, impervious to the salty marine air, cast shadows on the concrete, animating the exterior spaces. The windows, so critical to the day-lighting and ventilation strategy, are playfully arranged among the cladding panels. The apartments are arrayed as through-units on a single corridor, giving each one an ocean-side and a campus side exposure.
Viewing the building’s public face on Torrey Pines Road, the building bends slightly to follow the curve in the road, and the shift of orientation helps to reduce solar gain. Where the building is elevated, you can see through to the inner courtyard. The landscape has a system of channels, weirs, and rock swales that filter rainwater and reduce the volume of flow to the ocean. Deep red lava rock walls, a key element of the historic campus, are used in the landscape as a counterpoint to the light color and geometric form of the buildings.
Signage on the ground level informs us of the less visible initiatives of the LEED Platinum-rated project, including an on-site water recycling program and a rooftop PV array that supplies renewable energy.