Due to explosive growth of students wanting to study computer science, UC San Diego’s world class program is bursting at the seams in a building that was built for the program just 10 years ago. The dramatic increase in CSE students and associated faculty resulted in a severe shortage of meeting, conference, and instructional spaces. Undergrads complained that they were relegated to the seven basement level computer labs that lacked a literal or figurative connection to the faculty and grad students on the upper four floors-accessible via external staircases that required exiting the main lobby/building.
To accommodate the influx of students, the existing 20’ wide basement corridor morphed into part circulation and part de facto instructional space. Not originally designed for this purpose, fluorescent lighting, a low dropped ceiling, and dated finishes contributing to undergrads feeling like they were in a dungeon. Lastly, the department felt the building lacked an identity as one of several engineering buildings ringing the Warren College quad with its iconic Bear sculpture (part of the Stewart Collection).
The solution was simple and intuitive: add a new internal staircase connecting the main lobby to the basement level, draw in as much natural daylighting as possible, provide new meeting rooms, freshen the overall lighting and material palette, and create a more clearly defined entry with department identity.
Despite being a modest addition and renovation, the impact has been immediate and very well received. The design provides: several bright and airy meeting venues, a large multi-purpose room, connected to the courtyard; several informal student-centric places to lounge, congregate, or work; and a bold entry that can’t be missed it. This project is about place making, and it succeeds.