• A conceptual rendering of the Tianqiao and Chrissy Chen Neuroscience Research Building with Moore Walk in the foreground.
    Credit: Caltech Facilities
  • Proposed layout and location for the Tianqiao and Chrissy Chen Neuroscience Research Building. The facility, situated at the northwest corner of campus, is scheduled to open in the fall of 2020.
    Credit: Caltech Facilities
  • A conceptual rendering for the inside of the Tianqiao and Chrissy Chen Research Building. The shared laboratory and work space is meant to foster collaboration and the exchange of ideas among researchers.
    Credit: Caltech Facilites

Chen Neuroscience Research Building Update

In public meetings with the Caltech community and nearby neighbors in June, members of the Caltech Facilities team provided a sneak peek of design concepts and planning for the construction of the Tianqiao and Chrissy Chen Neuroscience Research Building.

The three-story, 150,000-square-foot facility, which is scheduled to open in the fall of 2020, will serve as the Institute's hub for neuroscience research. Caltech Associate Vice President for Facilities Jim Cowell noted that the project is still in the early stages of design, and that the first public hearing to review the project with the city of Pasadena will be in August.

The current timeline would have construction starting on the site, which sits at the northwest corner of campus along Del Mar Boulevard and Wilson Avenue, in early 2018.

"There are very tight schedule constraints involved in delivering the building. We are fortunate to have an extraordinary project team that is committed to working with the city of Pasadena and Caltech stakeholders to design and build a state-of-the-art neuroscience research center that will enhance the northwest corner of the campus," says Cowell.

The research building will be home to the Tianqiao and Chrissy Chen Institute for Neuroscience at Caltech. Once completed, the building is expected to house labs and offices for more than a dozen principal investigators, administrative offices and support spaces for the Division of Biology and Biological Engineering, a teaching lab, and a 150-seat lecture hall. The research institute and building are both named in honor of the Chens, who donated $115 million to Caltech in December 2016 in support of advancing Caltech research in the field of neuroscience.

The building is being intentionally designed to foster opportunities for cross-disciplinary work and collaboration through communal lab spaces, centralized working and lounging areas, and a mix of outdoor environments. In addition, a tunnel will connect the subbasement of the new building to the neighboring Broad Center for the Biological Sciences to strengthen partnerships between the researchers of both buildings.

 "It is still the case that being in close physical space with your peers leads to better interactions and deeper connections," says Steve Mayo (PhD '87), the Bren Professor of Biology and Chemistry and the William K. Bowes Jr. Leadership Chair of the Division of Biology and Biological Engineering. "In bringing together Caltech's faculty, students, and researchers in this facility we will have the opportunity to enable even more powerful and meaningful interactions, which can lead to breakthroughs in our understanding of the inner workings of the brain."

Moving forward with construction will require clearing the site of existing facilities, which includes a historical bungalow court, an apartment complex, a single-family residence, and a surface parking lot, Cowell said during the meetings. In addition, he noted that the Caltech-run recycling center housed on this site will be closed at the end of the year. Recycling services and opportunities for recycling in the surrounding community have expanded since the Institute first opened the recycling facility in 1993, says Cowell.

The Institute will be paying special attention to the relocation and preservation of the bungalow court—the configuration of which has been deemed historic by the city, says Hall Daily, Caltech's director of government relations. Caltech is already working with a preservationist and the city to determine the best location for the bungalow court residences, a process that will precede construction on the site.

Assisting the Caltech Facilities team with this project are architects from SmithGroupJJR, who assisted with the Broad Center design, and builder Hensel Phelps.

Written by Shayna Chabner McKinney