Loyola Marymount University Life Sciences

Sweeping up from the entry level to the top of the auditorium, a grass-covered walkway becomes a green roof. Photography by Bill Timmerman

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Loyola Marymount University (LMU), a century-old Jesuit school in West Los Angeles overlooking Marina del Rey and the Pacific Ocean, has won awards for the beauty of its campus as well as for its excellence in education. To lead the state of the art in science teaching and research, and to foster interdisciplinary collaboration, the university constructed the new LMU Life Sciences Building, a three-story complex of 35 laboratories, classrooms, and faculty offices.

Designed by Los Angeles–based CO Architects, the building’s green roof, solar panels, and drought-tolerant landscaping enable it to play a role in research and experimentation. “Science is no longer an isolated endeavor,” says Arnold Swanborn, an associate principal at CO Architects. “Our goals were to put science on display, promote interdisciplinary collaboration, and create a model of sustainability.”

Initiated in 2008, the building project was put on hold for 30 months during the Great Recession. CO Architects turned this delay into an advantage, though, by refining the layout to increase accessibility and visibility. Open and transparent, the 100,000-square-foot building is composed of an interplay of glazed volumes, exposed concrete walls, terraces, and courtyards. Solar panels provide up to 15 percent of the structure’s energy needs, and other sustainable features include high-performance glass, cross-ventilation, chilled beams, as well as the conservation and recycling of water. Taken together, these factors contribute to the building’s LEED Gold rating.

Mixing science and social spaces
With significant glazing, the interior is flooded with daylight and students can enjoy views across the campus. Taking advantage of the fine Southern California climate, pocketed glass sliding doors open onto the landscaped entry courtyard where trees provide ample shade. A mesh screen blocks glare on the west side, and a canopy of flat solar panels, cantilevered off slender steel poles, shades the interiors. Functioning as an “outdoor living laboratory,” a second-level terrace has three custom-designed ipe wood containers to allow faculty and students to experiment with seed and plant research. A grass-covered walkway sweeps up from the entry level to become a green roof on top of the auditorium.

Programmatically, the building is designed with a straightforward plan. Parking for 373 cars is located below ground. Teaching and research laboratories are arranged along the east side, perpendicular to the axial corridor on all three levels. A broad staircase ascends through the atrium, creating a major circulation route that is also an impromptu meeting place for staff. Basic sciences and sports medicine occupy the ground floor, biology and chemistry are on the second, and high-level chemistry labs are located on the top floor, where vapors can evacuate through more than 100 rooftop vents. Faculty offices, each about 140 square feet in size, are positioned across the corridors from the labs and at either end. Instructors are assigned to labs based on shared research interests, allowing for greater interdisciplinary work.

Encouraging exploration everywhere
Breakout areas encourage faculty and students to socialize and have informal discussions. “These [carpeted breakout] areas provide a tactile contrast to the light, bright circulation areas with their terrazzo floors,” explains Crystal Martinez, an interior designer at CO Architects. “They are carpeted in different colors—green on the first floor, red on the second, and blue on the third.” Glass marker boards provide a seamless link to classrooms and labs. Sound is absorbed by both the perforated wood panels that double as pin-up boards as well as the felt wall panels positioned beside each office.

The steeply raked 273-seat auditorium can be entered from either the first level or the second-floor terrace. Inside, diamond-section baffles, clad in the same rift-cut oak that is employed for cabinetry throughout the building, are situated on either side of the auditorium to cut glare and distribute sound. The theater can be blacked out by lowering the blinds, and a white end wall provides an expansive projection surface.

“The glass walls—initially incorporated to put science on display—have doubled as whiteboard extensions, where students and faculty can explain concepts, explore ideas, or make notes. And the green roof has become a destination for the whole LMU community,” says Tina Choe, dean of the LMU Frank R. Seaver College of Science and Engineering. “The Life Sciences Building has been transformative for our faculty, students, and staff in new and unexpected ways that embrace and explore thoughtful collaboration.”

who Architect: CO Architects. Project team: Scott P. Kelsey; L. Paul Zajfen; James Simeo; Arnold Swanborn; Jill Cheng; Ed Martinez; Crystal Martinez; Heather Crespy; Anthony Moretti; Tanner Clapham. Contractor: C.W. Driver. Lighting: Kaplan Gehring McCarroll Architectural Lighting. Engineering: AEI, formerly IBE Consulting Engineers (MEP); Thornton Tomasetti (structural); KPFF Consulting Engineers (civil). Landscape: Whitin Design Works. Acoustician: Mei Wu and Acoustics. Other: Research Facilities Design; Vantage Technology; Brightworks.
Wallcoverings: FilzFelt; Maharam. Paint: Dunn-Edwards. Casegoods: Trespa International; Nevamar; Abet Laminati; LG Hausys; DuPont Zodiaq; Kewaunee Scientific Corporation; Durcon. Walls: Georgia-Pacific; USG. Flooring: Forbo Flooring Systems; Tretford; Fortune Contract; Tandus Centiva; Crossville; Johnsonite; Corradini Corp. Ceilings: Armstrong; Hunter Douglas; Ceilings Plus. Lighting: Halo; Focal Point; Kramer Lighting; Lumiere; Cooper; Birchwood; Litelab; Delta Light; Edge; Louis Poulsen; !ntense; BEGA-US; B-K. Hardware: Schlage; Rixson; Trimco; Markar Architectural Products; Pemko; Best Access Systems; Allegion. Doors: Arcadia Group. Glass: Sentech Architectural Systems; Arcadia Group; Oldcastle; McGrory Glass. Window treatments: Arcadia Group. Workstations: Herman Miller. Seating: Herman Miller; Davis; Knoll; Coalesse; Steelcase; Izzy+; Series Seating; Haworth. Upholstery: Momentum Textiles; KnollTextiles; DesignTex; Kvadrat; Maharam. Tables: Coalesse; Knoll; Davis; Nucraft; Herman Miller; Steelcase; Carolina Business Furniture. Storage: Herman Miller; RAKKS.

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