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Monday, Jun 24, 2024

Living & Learning Neighborhood Wins Kudos for Design

The $490 million North Torrey Pines Living and Learning Neighborhood of the University of California San Diego has been cited as an ideal blend of residential, academic, commercial and cultural programming in a single neighborhood.

Covering 10 acres, the project opened to students in late 2020 and won a 2021 Orchid Award from the San Diego Architectural Foundation as an outstanding example of fine design.

The project was designed by Safdie Rabines Architects based in Mission Hills, HKS Architects based in Dallas with San Diego offices in Carmel Valley, and OJB Landscape Architecture based in Solana Beach.

The general contractor was Clark Construction.

“The finishes in the public spaces are beautiful,” Architectural Foundation judges wrote.


“It’s almost like they paid as much attention to the outdoor space as they did to the interior,” according to the judges. “In fact, the outdoor space was almost more inviting and tying everything together.”

Fast Work

With a total of 1.6 million square feet of space in seven buildings — four of which are for student housing — the Living and Learning Neighborhood is almost a little city at the center of campus between Muir and Marshall Colleges.

Designed to be the new home for the Sixth College, the Living and Learning Neighborhood includes more than 2,000 undergraduate student beds, a dining hall, a market, a craft center, a 650-seat auditorium, multiple classrooms, 1,187 underground parking spaces, retail space and five restaurants.

“It is huge,” said Ricardo Rabines, a founding partner and principal of Safdie Rabines Architects.

“They (the university) wanted to have a mixed-use project, much more density, and create a place where you could live, work and study at the same time,” Rabines said.

It was a first for UC San Diego, and the biggest project Safdie Rabines has ever done.

“It was done very fast and built very fast,” Rabines said.


The project took about two years to plan and about two and a half years to build,” said Eric Lindebak, a principal of Safdie Rabines.

“The challenges that you have with any project are sometimes amplified when you get into a large project like this,” Lindebak said.

With the Living and Learning Neighborhood, the COVID-19 pandemic was a key challenge.

“In March (2020), when the pandemic kind of really went into full swing here in California, there was a lot of confusion — do we need to shut down, does everybody need to stay home? We were able to continue, but protocols had to be taken,” Lindebak said. “From that side, this is a good story about how contractors, architects, designers, owners, users and students all worked together in the middle of a pandemic.”

Safdie Rabines was the architect of record for the academic buildings and the auditorium/lecture hall.

Past and Future

At more than 17,000 square feet, the stand-alone, 650-seat auditorium/lecture hall at the corner of John Muir Lane and Ridge Walk is the largest on campus.

“We have doors that open into the lecture hall that are 12 feet tall and 30 feet wide,” Lindebak said.


Floor to ceiling windows that are about 16 feet tall look out to the Torrey Pines and the historic John Muir College to the south.

“There’s something nice about being in a new college that’s looking to the future and looking back to one of the original 1960’s structures that started the school off,” Lindebak said.

The Torrey Pines Living and Learning Neighborhood will be a model for similar developments at other UC campuses, Lindebak said.

“The project is highly sustainable,” Lindebak said, designed to get a LEED platinum rating.

The buildings have operable windows that allow fresh air to circulate, to the point that air conditioning systems can be shut down when the windows are open.

“The lights dim or shut off when there’s plenty of daylight,” Lindebak said. “From an energy standpoint, the project is highly efficient.”

An anaerobic digester takes green waste from the dining areas and converts it to fertilizer and a gas that’s used on site, Lindebak said.

Recycled water is used for irrigation.

The buildings also have rooftop green areas and terraces “with amazing views of the coastline,” Lindebak said.

Safdie Rabines Architects

Year founded: 1993

Principals:  Taal Safdie, Ricardo Rabines, Eric Lindebak, Kevin Schiller

Founding Partners: Taal Safdie and Ricardo Rabines

Headquarters: Mission Hills

Business: Commercial architects

Employees: 41

Notable: Safdie Rabines Architects is designing the University of California San Diego’s largest and most ambitious project — the North Torrey Pines Living & Learning Neighborhood. The project is in collaboration with HKS.

Website:  www.safdierabines.com

Contact: (619) 297-6153


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