San Joaquin Villages at University of California, Santa Barbara

San Joaquin Villages

When the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB), purchased property approximately one mile from its campus core, university administration had a clear vision for its transformation. A former business park, the site needed to incorporate low- and high-density student and faculty housing, a convenience store, dining, and student life facilities into an integrated complex that connects students to each other and to campus.

Dubbed the San Joaquin Villages, the University also wanted the complex to feel like a vibrant hamlet that developed gradually over time. To that end, four firms were selected to complete the project: Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM), Lorcan O’Herlihy Architects (LOHA), Kevin Daly Architects (KDA), and KieranTimberlake. Through their collaboration, each firm designed individual components to produce a mini-campus that is architecturally, aesthetically, and programmatically rich..

Divided into three primary precincts, the site is threaded by multiple exterior circulation paths that offer pedestrian and bicycle access to the residences and amenities. Active plazas, recreational facilities, and courtyard gardens are key components of the plan, enhancing student social life and creating a sense of community. These areas also provide a sense of arrival as one approaches the housing clusters and help to form a connection to surrounding residential neighborhoods.

Tenaya Towers
Tenaya Towers, designed by SOM, consist of two parallel facing, six-story towers that frame an active exterior plaza. Within this central green there is a freestanding pavilion that features a recreation room and study lounge, both of which are open to the entire student body. Social opportunities continue inside each tower with stacked academic and recreation rooms, designated as “active” zones. Within the units, living spaces open onto balconies that overlook the adjacent plaza, while bedrooms are situated away from the activity. Study lounges and recreation rooms are collected into vertical tower elements and centrally located on most floors to foster social vibrancy.

Elsinore Court & Malibu Court
LOHA’s design for Elsinore and Malibu Courts comprises housing clusters defined by a solid, outward-facing edge and activated campus-oriented edge. Stimulated by an undulating circulation system that weaves between social hubs within the buildings, the new housing seeks to foster social and intellectual life on campus. Corrugated metal panels conventionally found in industrial applications create a visually dynamic, street-facing facade. The interior-facing elevations are covered in painted plaster, permeated by aluminum fins that physically support the elevated walkways. Stairs are finished with industrial cable mesh, which emphasizes a commitment to utilizing economical, durable materials.

Calaveras Court & Ramona Court
KDA designed the Calaveras and Ramona Courts for a unique demographic—students learning to live independently while having the support of campus housing and food services. The two buildings are a modern recreation of the dingbat style apartments commonly found in surrounding student neighborhoods. They are arrayed as asymmetrical courtyards, allowing exterior circulation to double as sun shading, which entices students onto continuous porches and encourages informal connections. Strategically located study rooms break up pedestrian pathways and provide zones for group collaboration.

Portola Dining Commons
The Portola Dining Commons, designed by KieranTimberlake, is the geographic and programmatic center of the complex. Located at the front edge of the site along a public road, the Commons is the outward presence of and front door to the San Joaquin Villages. The building’s openness and flexibility satisfy student preferences for variety and allows them to define their own social environment. Rather than compete with the dramatic landscape and bustling activity, the Commons is a “big, beautiful room” with tall ceilings and full-height windows that allow the Santa Ynez Mountains and coastal landscape to define the building.

Sustainable Design
Sustainability was a primary consideration throughout master planning and construction, helping the project to achieve multiple LEED Gold and Platinum certifications. Sustainable features include:
• Design encourages students to embrace urban life and ecologically responsible practices
• Design encourages biking and walking versus driving
• Gateway Towers maximize day lighting to reduce energy consumption

• Gateway Towers are naturally ventilated
• Gateway Towers include solar hot water collector panels on the building rooves
• Design replaces an existing 9-acre parking lot with ecologically-sensitive architecture
• Rainwater harvesting
• Permeable surfaces
• Integrated bioswales to eliminate petroleum-tainted storm water runoff into adjacent wetlands
• Operable windows
• Non-light-polluting

  • Location: Santa Barbara, California, USA
  • Design Team: Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, Lorcan O’Herlihy Architects, Kevin Daly Architects, KieranTimberlake
  • Contractor: Harper Construction; Morley Builders, Inc.
  • Landscape: TLS Landscape Architecture
  • MEP: BuroHappold Engineering
  • Civil (schematic design): Sherwood Design Engineers
  • Civil (design development): Stantec
  • Structural: Nabih Youssef & Associates
  • Acoustics: Newson Brown Acoustics LLC
  • Lighting: Horton Lees Brogden Lighting Design
  • Fire Life Safety: Jensen Hughes, Inc.
  • LEED: BuroHappold Engineering
  • Food Service: Webb Foodservice Design
  • IT and Low Voltage: PlanNet
  • Signage and Wayfinding: Gerald Stamm Design
  • Cost Estimating: C.P. O’Halloran Associates, Inc.
  • Client: University of California, Santa Barbara
  • Cost: $135 million
  • Completed: September 2017
  • Photographs: Bruce Damonte, Courtesy of SOM

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