Robert Paine Scripps Forum for Science, Society and the Environment / Safdie Rabines Architects

© Anne Garrison

Designed by Safdie Rabines Architects, the Robert Paine Scripps Forum for Science, Society and the Environment is an oceanfront conference center that plays host to scientists from around the world studying the oceans, earth, and marine life. The project features an approximately 300-person flexible auditorium space, four oceanfront meeting rooms of varying sizes, a graduate student lounge, a catering kitchen, and a restaurant.

Project description, images, and drawings after the break.

Architects: Safdie Rabines Architects
Location: UCSD La Jolla, , USA
MEP Engineer: Integrated Engineering
Structural Engineer: Flores Lund Consultants
Civil Engineer: Fuscoe Engineering
Landscape Architect: Aerea Studio
Acoustic Consultant: Dohn and Associates
Contractor/Builder: Jaynes Corporation, General Contractors
Project Area: 15,000 sqf
Project Year: 2009
Photographs: Anne Garrison, David Hewitt Anne Garrison Architectural Photography

© Anne Garrison

The building is located atop an ocean bluff, with strong winds, western sun, an existing grove of palms, and the ever-changing ocean providing the natural context. Responding to these forces without impacting the site’s natural beauty was a driving goal in the design of the project. In addition, the uniquely informal character of the Scripps community, with its clear appreciation of the natural environment and outdoors, became an influential factor in the design. It was important to create a building that feels warm and inviting; and, more importantly, one that does not feel ‘institutional’. The goal was to create a state-of-the-art conference center where scientists dressed in shorts and flip-flops could feel at home.


The auditorium was conceived of as a box within a box that can shed its layers depending on the event and the desired configuration. It can be completely enclosed for formal presentations and movies, or it can be opened to the oceanfront terrace with a series of pocketing doors that allow for indoor/outdoor receptions and banquets. In addition, each meeting room opens onto its own trellised terrace, enabling meetings and receptions to spill out onto the ocean bluff. To the east of the meeting rooms, there is an outdoor pre-function courtyard and garden protected from the ocean breezes for winter gatherings. West of the auditorium is a large outdoor terrace that overlooks the ocean. The auditorium is tucked into the hillside, minimizing its mass from the campus to the east, and allowing for gentle ramps to access a rooftop restaurant and terrace. The program is broken into several buildings connected by a trellised walkway, creating a porous structure that preserves ocean views and breezes for the rest of the campus. Exterior circulation takes advantage of San Diego’s temperate climate and greatly reduces the need for mechanical systems and artificial lighting.

floor plan

The design phase for this entirely gift-funded project spanned a long period of time and was completed prior to the establishment of the University’s -certification goals. Despite this, instinctive design decisions regarding building envelope, materials, energy use, daylighting and passive cooling enabled the project to achieve certification after the completion of construction.


View this project in Google Maps

* Location to be used only as a reference. It could indicate city/country but not exact address.
Cite: "Robert Paine Scripps Forum for Science, Society and the Environment / Safdie Rabines Architects" 24 Feb 2011. ArchDaily. Accessed 28 May 2015. <>
  • Erik Andrew Laag


  • Craig Howard

    it’s beautiful, must see