Graduate Aerospace Labs, Caltech



Caltech, Pasadena, CA | 2009

Housed in a historically-protected structure originally designed by Bertram Goodhue in 1921, GALCIT has accomplished revolutionary breakthroughs in aerospace engineering. The renovation of the department’s 33,000 square feet of labs, conference rooms, and common spaces acknowledges these past achievements while also suggesting the multitude of exciting directions for its future.

Drawing on the idea of “flow,” a concept central to aerospace engineering, many of the project’s forms were derived by imagining the building as an “architectural wind tunnel.” The complex curves of the lobby ceiling element, fabricated of PETG thermoplastic using advanced software and computer-controlled machines, is a prime example. 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 Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

New glazed walls and windows bring light into formerly dark labs and classrooms, while also allowing views of the innovative research being performed inside. The heightened transparency inspires an atmosphere of interdisciplinary collaboration and cooperation. Many walls incorporate vitrines that display historical artifacts. The overall result is that GALCIT’s students and faculty are constantly inspired by past achievements, as well as by their own collaborative and creative interactions.


Project Team

Principals-in-Charge: Alice Kimm, John Friedman
Project Architect: Claudia Kessner
Project Designers: Brendan Beachler, Garrett Belmont, Robert McFadden
Project Team: Pamela Schriever, Daniel Poei
Project Assistants: Casey Hughes, Long Truong
Structural Engineer: TMAD Taylor + Gaines
Mechanical and Plumbing Engineer: MEDG Engineers
Electrical Engineer: Pacific Engineers Group
Lighting Design: Light Vision, FIRE Ltd.
Graphic Design: Patricia Kovic, Maureen Nishikawa
General Contractor: Del Amo Construction
Photography: Fotoworks



California Institute of Technology


2011 AIA/CC
Merit Award

2011 Westside Urban Forum
Design Citation Award

2010 Southern California Development Forum (SCDF)
Design Award

2010 Los Angeles Business Council
Los Angeles Architectural Award of Excellence

2009 Architect Annual Design Review
Citation Award

2009 Architectural Record
Record Interiors Award

2009 Real Estate & Construction Review
Building of America Award

2009 AIA/Pasadena & Foothill
Merit Award

2008 3form People’s Choice
Best Installation Award, Best Ceiling

2007 AIA/Los Angeles
Next LA Merit Award