Tata Hall for the Sciences

Tata Hall for the Sciences

CO Architects
La Jolla, San Diego, California, USA | View Map
Project Year
Bill Timmerman

Tata Hall for the Sciences

CO Architects as Architects

The interdisciplinary Tata Hall for the Sciences, designed by CO Architects, increases research capacity at the University of California, San Diego (UC San Diego), and provides a new hub for teaching and scholarly engagement.  The 130,000-square-foot, seven-floor building combines research and teaching from two different departments, biology and chemistry.  Recognizing that many scientific breakthroughs occur through interdisciplinary collaboration, UC San Diego required research labs to be designed to encourage interaction, with work benches grouped together in an open area, rather than in separate spaces, which is common in typical lab layouts.  Specialized research procedure rooms are situated at the ends of the building to maximize contiguous open lab space and support activity through a flexible design that promotes “science on display.”  The lower-level nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) facility provides scientific study of lab samples submitted from institutions around the nation.  This is the 15th project CO Architects has completed for UC San Diego, and the 52nd for the University of California system overall.


The building engages the adjacent outdoor area, called Urey Green, to create a science precinct by positioning six biology teaching labs and a large learning studio on the ground floor with floor-to-ceiling glass showcasing activities within.  Teaching laboratories with the highest number of students going in and out are entered from the new plaza level, as well as from the floor above, which is accessed by a gently sloping ramp.  The ramp also connects pedestrians from the primary campus thoroughfare, Ridge Walk, up to the auditorium and terrace with views toward the Pacific Ocean on the third level.  A bridge on the fifth floor connects Tata Hall to Pacific Hall, a biosciences building next door.  


On the exterior, the state-funded Tata Hall harmonizes with surrounding mid-century modern campus buildings through streamlined architecture of glass, concrete, and metal.  High-performance glazing and sunscreens optimize ambient daylighting of interior spaces while controlling heat gain.  Several innovative materials are used to meet energy conservation goals and enhance occupants’ comfort.  


At the ends of the rectangular building, the east and west façades are fitted with high-performance, electrochromic glazing from Sage Glass, which automatically changes its tint, depending on sunlight conditions, to eliminate glare without obstructing daylight.  This type of glass can reduce heat gain by as much as 52 percent.  The south façade is also subject to heat gain, so the circulation corridor was placed along this perimeter as a buffer to prevent direct sunlight from reaching occupied rooms.  In addition, vertical aluminum shading fins and Panelite insulated glass panels, with a polycarbonate honeycomb interlayer, are integrated into the south façade to  control the angle of the light and throw it deeper into the adjacent lab spaces, reduce solar heat gain, and allow for views.  Floor-to-ceiling glass on the north façade maximizes daylighting.  


A NMR facility projects out from the building 30 feet below Urey Green, rather than directly beneath the building, as a cost-effective way to take advantage of increased floor to floor heights and minimize the impact of vibration and magnetic interference from the new structure.  Its location reduced the shoring, columns, and length of retaining walls required of the underground structure, saving millions of dollars in project costs.


As a research laboratory, Tata Hall is an energy-intensive building with consumption driven by demanding heating and cooling requirements and round-the-clock operations.  This challenge was met by a LEED Gold-targeted design that employs unconventional building systems and materials.  Integrated mechanical systems enable optional transfer of cooled and heated air from offices into the laboratories.  A displacement HVAC system, frequently used in theaters and large assembly spaces, supplies a high volume of conditioned air at ground level for occupants to naturally heat up and rise to the ceiling where it is removed by vents.  


In addition, chilled beams are used to cool the majority of spaces.  This system provides cooling and heating at the diffuser, instead of supplying this conditioned air through ductwork.  The energy saving process reduces necessary cooling and heating, as the ductwork and fans push fresh air through the building more efficiently.  


In the labs, high-efficiency fume hoods reduce both air supply and exhaust requirements.  Inside the auditorium, curved wood panels symbolizing row oars line the walls to absorb sound.  


Tata Hall serves as a model of an energy-conserving laboratory design.  CO Architects and its technical consultants plan to monitor the performance of the building to evaluate the efficacy of the building systems and apply this knowledge to advance the sustainable design of future projects.


Landscape:   CO Architects in collaboration with Spurlock Landscape Architects redesigned an adjacent  quadrangle called Urey Green, and leveled out the outdoor space next to the building to accommodate a new plaza for events.  Tata Hall is located at the northern edge of a reimagined  campus quadrangle that reorganizes pedestrian, bicycle, and service pathways and unifies the surrounding science buildings around new outdoor teaching spaces set within a landscape of coastal native plantings and bioswales.  Landscaped biofiltration areas retain and filter building and site stormwater.  Tata Hall acts as a “front porch,” activating the campus green and inviting both science and non-science visitors to enjoy the temperate climate.  Its 165-seat auditorium spills out to an outdoor pre-function terrace that faces west toward the Pacific Ocean and is accessed by a gently sloping pedestrian ramp that begins at the main campus thoroughfare and traverses the green.  The landscape accommodates small group meetings as well as large functions or special events.

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