The new heart of UC Irvine’s University Extension Village establishes a social nexus for students from diverse backgrounds, woven into the campus fabric and responsive to the local climate. Indoor and outdoor functions blend together into a pattern of fluid interactions, united by a central outdoor courtyard, coffee shop, and flexible event spaces.
Site and Program
The University Extension (UNEX) Program creates opportunities for life-long learning for a wide range of traditional and non-traditional students. Its progressive approach emphasizes connectivity across communities at all scales, from the regional to the international, and integrates distance learning functions with on-site classrooms and nodes for social interaction.
The site, located on the rapidly developing east side of the 1,500-acre campus, anchors a cluster of buildings dedicated to the UNEX program that previously lacked a campus identity within the UCI framework. New classrooms, offices, collaboration spaces, and informal lounges expand the program’s offerings and redefine its educational mission. The U-shape of the new facility presents a strong westward orientation to the campus center, embracing the existing buildings as a village and connecting to the academic core via pedestrian bridge.
A lively, buzzing social environment arises through the intersection of multiple circulation pathways and open, daylit informal spaces. The central courtyard organizes the design, giving users a sense of connectivity with the program as a whole, as well as the larger campus and the Irvine landscape. Stacked arcades surrounding the courtyard create an additional layer of connection between floors. The upper level arcades are enclosed in glass, reflecting the need for separation of the administrative and faculty functions on these floors, while the lower student levels spill directly into the social energy of the courtyard through an open portico.
Multiple building circulation pathways intersect in a matrix of interstitial commons areas, promoting mixing between students and faculty, as well as between different programs of study. A feature stair rising from the courtyard rewards use by snaking through student and office areas with interesting vantage points, and a glass-enclosed coffeeshop embedded in the stair column activates all spaces and pathways connected with it. Circulation also passes through the interior lobby and down one level to a second courtyard on the north side, with the potential to integrate with a future expansion site.
The LEED Platinum sustainability strategy is felt most strongly in the design’s response to the climate of Southern California and its indoor-outdoor continuity. The central courtyard soaks up sunlight from the west, while strategically mitigating the impact of glare and heat through a porous trellis patterned with 25-kW photovoltaic panels. The depth of the courtyard and the pattern of panels are carefully calibrated to achieve a comfortable, inviting infiltration of sunlight at all times of day. The sense of immersion in the ecology and landscape of the region continues throughout the interior, with column-free office floors and floor-to-ceiling windows offering daylight penetration and striking views that bring a unique character to every part of the building.