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Graduate Aerospace Laboratories / John Friedman Alice Kimm Architects

  • 00:00 - 2 November, 2009
Graduate Aerospace Laboratories / John Friedman Alice Kimm Architects
Graduate Aerospace Laboratories / John Friedman Alice Kimm Architects, © Benny Chan
© Benny Chan

© Benny Chan © Benny Chan © Benny Chan © Benny Chan + 17

  • Architects

  • Partners In Charge

    Alice Kimm, AIA and John Friedman, FAIA
  • Project Architect

    Claudia Kessner
  • Project Designers

    Robert McFadden, Garrett Belmont, Brendan Beachler
  • Project Team

    Pamela Schriever, Casey Hughes, Daniel Poei
  • Structural Engineers

    TMAD Taylor & Gaines
  • Electrical Engineers

    Pacific Engineers Group
  • Owner

    California Institute of Technology
  • Mechanical And Plumbing

    MEDG Consulting Engineers
  • Budget

    $6.4 million
  • Area

    1672.0 m2
  • Project Year

  • Photographs

Text description provided by the architects. Change

The Graduate Aerospace Laboratories at the California Institute of Technology (GALCIT) has been behind some of the most significant and revolutionary achievements in the short history of flight, yet by the time we first visited the department in 2006 its historically-protected facilities, designed by Bertrand Goodhue and constructed in 1921, had barely seen any modernization. This project involved the renovation of approximately 33,000 square feet of the department’s laboratories, offices, common spaces, and conference rooms.

© Benny Chan
© Benny Chan


To bring relevance and meaning to the project’s spaces, the design employs some of the same concepts, processes, and sophisticated technologies used in the department’s own, widely varied and interdisciplinary research. The results are joyful, creative environments that encourage interaction, teamwork, and the free flow of ideas.

© Benny Chan
© Benny Chan


Drawing on the idea of “flow,” a concept central to almost every facet of aeronautical engineering, many of the project’s forms were derived by imagining the building as a kind of “architectural wind tunnel.” The dimpled lobby ceiling element, digitally designed and fabricated of PETG thermoplastic with the most advanced software and computer controlled machines, is a prime example of this strategy. But it goes even further by acknowledging another cornerstone of aeronautics - namely, that seeming small material deformations have huge effects on aerodynamic behavior.

© Benny Chan
© Benny Chan


The felt ceiling of the main conference room is a direct representation of a seminal flow diagram by Theodore von Karman, the founder of both GALCIT and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Overall, the project’s design has completely updated GALCIT’s identity, raising its profile considerably and making it easier to attract the best students and faculty from around the world.

© Benny Chan
© Benny Chan

Transparency and Display

Throughout the project, glazed walls and windows bring light into formerly dark spaces, and allow people to see the innovative research being performed inside the various laboratories and classrooms. This heightened transparency has contributed to an atmosphere of interdisciplinary collaboration and cooperation. The glazed walls often double as vitrines that display artifacts collected throughout the history of GALCIT, so that those who study, research, and work there are constantly inspired by past achievements and the scientists and engineers responsible for them.

© Benny Chan
© Benny Chan

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Cite: "Graduate Aerospace Laboratories / John Friedman Alice Kimm Architects" 02 Nov 2009. ArchDaily. Accessed . <> ISSN 0719-8884
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© Benny Chan

研究生航天实验室 / John Friedman Alice Kimm Architects

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