Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences for UC Irvine

A building to increase college-level collaboration

To emphasize, grow, and improve the rankings of its School of Information and Computer Science, the University of California at Irvine began planning for a new building that would unite professors, students, and laboratories in a single structure. Such a building would lend to the young school’s brand identity as well as invite, support, and highlight collaboration among stakeholders.

To help specify and design these collaborative spaces, the School engaged IDEO for its experience designing interactive institutional environments. To become familiar with social dynamics on campus, IDEO began evaluating student, staff, and professor experiences, in addition to observing collaboration-supporting facilities and tools in industry. From this research, design principles emerged to help the school manage social and collaborative challenges at varying scales. These design principles centered on the building’s ability to convey and promote collaboration through its design, to support rapidly shifting modes of work, to foster informal social interaction, and to accommodate group activities.

IDEO then created concepts to illustrate the spatial opportunity areas, including building programming, floor-to-floor relationships, room layouts, and concepts for new corridors. These concepts took the form of “Work Anywhere” and tech alcoves to be built off of hallways to provide different levels of social and collaborative interaction and privacy; “Bus Stops” and “Speed Bumps” to mark public areas with gateways identifying different academic groups and inviting students and professors to slow down and engage; and “Lab Front Porches,” which provide breakout areas from heads-down lab activities. To realize and incorporate each concept, IDEO worked closely with the School and an architectural partner, Esherick Homsey Dodge and Davis.

The first classes in Donald Bren Hall were held in January 2007. Based closely on IDEO’s original specifications, the building comprises more than 125 faculty offices, 90 research labs, 10 classrooms, three lecture halls, and administrative offices to support the school’s growing populations. Professors, staff, and students have reported being thrilled with the new building and the ways it supports dynamic collaboration.

Project date: 2008