for Success

UC San Diego's California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology links scientists and artists in a new kind of team building that provides a persistent, collaborative framework.

Following the launch of a state initiative to keep California at the forefront of technological innovation, the University of California envisioned a network of four institutes that would use collaboration to address large-scale societal issues. Calit2, the second of them, was established at UC San Diego, one of the nation’s highest-ranked research institutions. Research projects under Calit2’s aegis bring together experts who typically wouldn't be housed under the same roof, much less in adjacent labs.

Every aspect of the building’s design is inspired by the vision of interconnected, ubiquitous broadband wireless communication, and the mission to develop new strategic applications through public-private partnerships. It provides some of the most advanced facilities in the nation, including clean rooms, micro-electro-mechanical labs, immersive virtual reality, and ultra-high-definition digital cinema. The dynamic balance of the building’s form and mass expresses the coexistence of related but opposing forces. The rectangular form on the courtyard side houses support systems and lab functions, while the curvilinear canyon side responds to the natural boundary, providing flexible, open-plan collaboration spaces.

“ I stop people in the hall and say ‘How’s it going?’ and they say, ‘It’s just so free. You can think and invent and make things happen.’”

Larry Smarr Director, Calit2

Calit2's interiors provide long-term adaptability, nurturing collaboration at many levels: one-on-one meetings occur in an office or laboratory, or at chance encounters; larger-scale interactions develop in the lounge and support areas, research neighborhoods, visualization and conference rooms, the black-box theater, and the courtyard.

Faculty offices, forming the perimeter of the upper levels, define the open areas of the research cluster. The orthogonal form of this space contains more mechanical functions, and responds to man-made site conditions. On the facade, this rigid form is mitigated by a series of large, clear-glazed windows that allow visual and signal line-of-sight and define interior circulation termini.

The materials also support Calit2’s mission. The design team discovered that ordinary metal and even glass were too “opaque” for wireless signals; an innovative composite façade minimizes blocking electromagnetic waves, and a steel structural system makes it easier to map interference points.

Technology, embraced as a unifying element, informs the building’s character, shaping work spaces around the performance of the systems and the researchers who bring it to life. As the future of wireless and communications technology continues to transform the world around us, Calit2 and its research will continue to evolve and meet new needs.

Awards and Publications


Grand Orchid Award, San Diego Architectural Foundation, 2006
Best Overall Project, California Construction, 2006
Best Architectural Design, California Construction, 2006
Best Higher Education of S. California, California Construction, 2006


The New York Times, “Researchers Look to Create a Synthesis of Art and Science for the 21st Century,” November 5, 2005
Architectural Record, “Wireless Communication Dictates Choice of Materials,” July 2006
Architectural Record, “University of California San Diego, Calit2,” December 2007
California Construction, “Best of 2006,” December 2007