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Cahill Center for Astronomy and Astrophysics
1216 California Boulevard
Pasadena, California


The Cahill Center, completed in 2008, houses the offices and research facilities for the faculty and graduate students of Caltech’s world renowned Astrology and Astrophysics departments. Architect Thom Mayne of Morphosis designed the building specifically to promote impromptu meetings between its inhabitants while minimizing environmental impact. Here you can see construction workers laying out the basement where all of the building’s labs are located, each customized for a specific purpose (5):

(Image Source)

The building incorporates many design features to boost its environmental performance. These include a fiber-reinforced concrete fa├žade which block the sun to reduce solar gain; motion sensors for lighting; a 30 percent reduction in water use; and extensive implementation of natural light. These features reduced the amount of energy the building uses by 24.5 to 28 percent, leading to an overall LEED-Gold Certification for the project. (4)

The building’s central vertical space is reminiscent of telescope, and acts to connect the different parts of the building while increasing chance encounters between researchers within the building. (3)

The building’s overall massing and corridors act to connect Caltech’s north and south campus, which it is built directly between. (3) Scattered office spaces and meeting rooms tied together by extended longitudinal hallways can be seen in this plan view of the second floor:

Even the number in the address of the building, 1216 California Boulevard, is relevant to the building’s use. 1216 anstroms is the wavelength of ultraviolet light emitted by hydrogen atoms, which astronomers use while studying distant galaxies. (2)

Client: California Institute of Technology
Site area: 1.0 acres
Project Size: 100,000 square feet
Completed: 2008
Cost: $50 million
Architect: Thom Mayne of Morphosis
Structural Engineer: John A. Martin & Associates
Project Manager: Kim Groves
Project Architect: David Rindlaub
Job Captain: Salvador Hidalgo
Project Designers: Martin Summers, Shanna Yates
Project Team: Irena Bedenikovic, Pavel Getov,Debbie Lin, Kristina Loock, David Rindlaub
MEP: IBE Consulting Engineers
Civil Engineer: KPFF Consulting Engineers
Landscape Architect: Katherine Spitz Associates
Laboratory Consultant: Research Facilities Design
Architectural Lighting: Horton Lees Brogden
Signage and Graphics: Follis Design
Acoustical Engineer: Martin Newson & Associates
Audio Visual and Telecommunications: Vantage Technology Consulting Group
Vertical Transportation: Edgett Williams Consulting Group
Curtain Wall Consultant: David Van Vokinburg
Code and Security: Schirmer Engineering Corp.
Specifications: Technical Resources Consultants
Cost Estimator: Davis Langdon
General Contractor: Hathaway Dinwiddie

Morphomedia (1)

PressReleasePoint (2) (3)

Architecture Week (4)

“Cahill Center for Astronomy and Astrophysics, Pasadena, California: Morphosis.” Arca n. 256 (Mar 2010): 64-71. Print. (5)

“Morphosis: Cahill Center for Astronomy and Astrophysics, Pasadena, California, U.S.A.” GA Document 109 (2009): 56-67. Print. (6)

Case Study by Josh Massey
ARE 320k Fall 2010

Written by Josh Massey

September 14, 2010 at 5:16 am

Posted in Uncategorized