UCSD's Southwest Fisheries Science Center faces facelift

Bluffside building to be preserved, reinforced

Preparation has begun for the demolition of several buildings that once housed the Southwest Fisheries Science Center on the UC San Diego campus, employees were recently informed.

Over the past several years, contractors working for the center, which serves as the research arm of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, have worked to construct a new $74 million, 124,000-square-foot facility to house researchers. Staff began to move into the new building, which received an “Orchid” design award from the San Diego Architectural Foundation, in February.

“The move consolidates 35+ labs, 5 shops, 4 libraries, 1.5 million specimens and 275 people from two locations with as little interruption to ongoing work as possible,” notes a release updating progress on the modernization.

One structure in the multi-building former campus, Building D, will be preserved, as will the basement of Building A, which houses infrastructure necessary for Building D. However, due to its precarious location atop a steep bluff, extensive stabilization efforts, including a massive excavation project to install tensioned-steel supporting rods must be undertaken to protect the facility from earthquakes and erosion.

Other sites formerly housing facilities will be converted to parking lots or planted with native California vegetation. Once the process is complete, the property will be returned to the control of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and UCSD, though more renovation to the structure will be needed to convert space to teaching and research facilities. Completion of the project is not expected until sometime in 2015.

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Who is the "San Diego Architectural Foundation" -- a wing of UCSD? It's not the American Institute of Architects, that's for sure. No photo here of the alleged award-winning new structure, I notice.

In fact, the new 124,000 square-foot Southwest Fisheries building of NOAA built on UC land smack onto the narrow uphill curve of La Jolla Shores Drive is an unsightly behemoth. The older, smaller downhill site on the west side of the road was far less obtrusive.

UCSD is a bad neighbor with its recent spate of off-campus bulky ugly buildings. Latest evidence is the gigantic Craig Venter Institute that has been built in a residential area at the top of Torrey Pines Road, its backside jammed up against a busy soccer field that belongs to the community and its immense shed roof visible from the shoreline, rather than blending into the landscape.

Disgraceful disregard for the community.

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