Endurance, Change and Vision: The Caltech Chen Neuroscience Research Building
Copper and LEED certification help intelligent neuroscience research building foster cross-disciplinary collaboration
Chinese billionaire philanthropists Tianqiao Chen and Chrissy Lou were inspired by a news item about research in which a person could control a robotic arm using only their mind. So much so, that they donated $115 million to help fund a neuroscience institute at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in Pasadena, Calif.
This new 150,000-square-foot, five-story Caltech Chen Neuroscience Research Building (CNRB) serves as the university’s new administrative and knowledge center for the Division of Biology and Biological Engineering. The neuroscience institute investigates the challenges in understanding how the brain works, and focusing on the discovery, treatment and development of the brain. Detroit-based SmithGroup was the architect and Greeley, Colo.-based Hensel Phelps was the general contractor.
Inspired by biology and neuroscience, the Hensel Phelps-SmithGroup design-build team worked through many iterations of laboratory design concepts with Caltech and decided upon a model called “transparent” lab design. “It places open laboratories back-to-back, allowing light all the way through from one side of the building to the other,” Mark Zajdzinski Sr., project architect, SmithGroup. “The result is a place to focus, postulate, imagine and conduct the rigorous discourse necessary to unravel the foundations of the human mind and propel science forward as we better understand the capacity and intricacies of the brain. In materiality, the building utilizes classic, natural Southern California elements, such as travertine and copper, to serve as warm complements to the surrounding landscape.”