Sanford Consortium for Regenerative Medicine / Fentress Architects

Jason A. Knowles © Fentress Architects

Architects: Fentress Architects
Location: , California,
Associate Architect: Davis Davis Architects
Contractor: Hensel Phelps Construction Co.
Lanscape Architect: Civitas, Inc.
Project Team: Curtis Fentress, Jeff Olson, Robin Ault, Al Roberts, Sharlene Bhyun, Jesse Dzierzanowski
Photographs: Jason A. Knowles

Jason A. Knowles © Fentress Architects

“Design a building that will enhance communications between the best minds in biomedical research.” Two years ago, Louis Coffman, vice president of the Sanford Consortium for Regenerative Medicine, asked this of the design team for the new research center in La Jolla, California. Today’s grand opening for the $127-million, 150,700-square-foot biomedical research laboratory celebrates a building designed specifically around the concept of bringing people together to promote social and intellectual interaction.

Jason A. Knowles © Fentress Architects

The Sanford Consortium for Regenerative Medicine (Sanford) is a consortium of five world leaders in life sciences research: the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, The Scripps Research Institute, the Sanford|Burnham Medical Research Institute, the University of California, San Diego, and the La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology. Designed by Fentress Architects, in association with Davis Davis Architects, the so-called “collaboratory” was developed by Lankford/Phelps Consortium.

Jason A. Knowles © Fentress Architects

“Our design features the latest innovations in research and sustainability, while honoring the modern aesthetics of the neighboring Salk Institute. The signature office “pods” speak to Louis Kahn’s extraordinary design while fostering collaboration and communication among researchers.”- Curtis Fentress, Principal-in-Charge of Design at Fentress Architects.

Jason A. Knowles © Fentress Architects

Sanford marshals the intellectual resources of five organizational world-leaders in life sciences research, bringing scientists from each institution together to conduct joint research and training programs in one of today’s most promising arenas of science. Scientists from the five collaborating organizations plan to focus on stem cell growth and differentiation, neuroscience, cardiovascular biology, and blood cell development. They will develop innovative diagnostics and therapies, and invent tools and technologies to advance stem cell research.

Jason A. Knowles © Fentress Architects

Design For People | Located on a premier site adjacent to the Salk Institute and UCSD campus, the signature building is in the heart of San Diego’s biotechnology cluster, an area nicknamed “the Mesa.” Fentress Architects was challenged to design a building that would pull researchers out of their routines and encourage them to interact with one another.

With that idea in mind, designers shifted that standard lab module placement from north to south, and east to west, altering the way researchers could move throughout the building. This circulatory design shift increases the opportunity for more frequent meet-ups and mingling. In addition, the shift created spaces on each end of the building for shared two-story break rooms, which interconnect all levels of the building and encourage interaction among researchers. Stairways between floors were strategically designed as areas of “creative collision” where people and ideas intersect.


“This building is all about user experience. We were tasked to design a building where collaboration could thrive, where different organizations could come together under one roof and unite for a common goal. We are proud of the result, and honored to have been involved.”- Robin D. Ault, Project Designer, Fentress Architects

Another major design element includes private office “pods” for senior researchers and investigators at Sanford. Cantilevered from exterior walkways, the pods offer protected views that overlook the Torrey Pines Golf Course, the historic Gliderport and the Pacific Ocean.

Section Perspective

Sanford also has a new café and 150-seat auditorium, separate from the laboratory building. The client envisioned the auditorium as a place for scientists to educate the community, reach out to the public, and provide a focal point for gathering and discussion. An outside plaza divides the café and auditorium from the main laboratory building, allowing researchers a chance to get outside the working environment of the lab.

Green Leader | The Sanford Consortium for Regenerative Medicine is on track to achieve LEED Gold certification. A pedestrian bridge leading to the main entrance of the building passes over a restored landscape of orange-barked madrone trees. Eucalyptus trees, cut from the site, were saved and reused as signature elements. These trees will be mist-irrigated as nurse logs for the regeneration of native plant life. Other green strategies include utilizing recyclable pecan chips in open areas instead of mulch, and incorporation of bioswales in the parking lots to filter water naturally.


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Cite: "Sanford Consortium for Regenerative Medicine / Fentress Architects" 08 Dec 2011. ArchDaily. Accessed 27 May 2015. <>