Architecture

Ocean Discovery Institute’s Living Lab

Ocean Discovery Institute is a San Diego-based 501(c)3 that has been providing science education for over two decades. From our more than humble beginnings at a makeshift lab space in a bayside kayak closet, children emerged passionate about science and serious about tackling environmental problems. Most recently, Ocean Discovery Institute opened the doors of the Living Lab, our state-of-the-art science and education facility located in the heart of the community of City Heights. Built in partnership with the San Diego Unified School District, the Living Lab enables Ocean Discovery to reach all 10,000 children in this community, increase the quality and frequency of programming, and expand the role of families, teachers, and mentors. Most importantly, the Living Lab encourages City Heights students to further explore science and conservation as they grow their educational and career goals.

The Living Lab, designed by Rob Wellington Quigley, is a 12,000 square foot, state-of-the-art science facility. This sustainably built and operated facility is Platinum LEED certified and tracking to be net-zero energy. Quigley describes the architectural structure as two arms, one extending out to welcome the community, and one rooted into the natural canyon habitat of the adjacent Manzanita Canyon. Every element of the facility, including spaces created for community interactions and indoor-outdoor features, reiterates this concept and enables connectivity with nature.

Every phase of design and planning for the Living Lab has been intentional. This has resulted in a space where form and function work in harmony, participants are immersed in robust scientific discovery, and students and families know that their commitment and achievements make this possible. The Living Lab is built on the premise “If I know how the world works, I can make a difference.” Features in support of this include:

  • Two premier science labs that integrate the tools to build skills for our fastest-growing industries including gel electrophoresis systems, aquaria designed for scientific inquiry, and technology.
  • A Scientist in Residence that will house a series of science and conservation leaders from around the world, who reflect the diversity of our students and will dedicate themselves to mentoring and expanding STEM experiences.
  • An Ocean Alcove with wall-to-wall screens that will live stream the view of our coastline, just 20 miles away, but rarely accessed by this community.
  • A kitchen that is perched above the canyon and across from the Living Roof garden where students and families learn the science of health and how integrating this knowledge enables us to be our best selves.
  • The Leadership Pathway showcases images of student graduates doing important work in the fields of science and conservation.

Collectively these features create an environment where students believe that science is something they can do and a scientist is someone they can be.

The Living Lab is strategically located in City Heights, within easy walking distance for thousands of students. At a time when schools, particularly those in high-poverty communities, continue to cut back on field trips due to transportation expenses, this proximity to so many schools is essential. In addition, its location adjacent to a 30-acre urban canyon provides an outdoor laboratory for research and stewardship experiences.

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  • Orchid Nominee

  • Project Address:

    4255 Thorn Street, San Diego

    Project Owner/Developer:

    Ocean Discovery Institute

    Owner Contact Name/Email:

    Shara Fisler / sfisler@oceandi.org

    Project Architect/Designer:

    Rob Wellington Quigley Architects

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San Diego, CA 92112-2228
Federal Tax ID: 95-3513927

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Orchids & Onions is an educational and fundraising program of the San Diego Architectural Foundation, a 501(c)3, nonprofit organization dedicated to education and the promotion of outstanding architecture, planning and urban design throughout the San Diego region.

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