There was a time when the design of a new law school usually meant a sprawling campus of separate buildings, with iconic columns and grassy courtyards. But it is 2010, space can be limited and some owners are finding a need to build schools straight up in the middle of busy cities.
Enter Thomas Jefferson School of Law in downtown San Diego.
“I would describe it as an urban-progressive building symbolic of state-of-the-art green building practices and the integration of a vertical campus in the city,” says Michael LaBarre, president of San Diego-based Fehlman LaBarre, the project architect.
“Historically, the classrooms, library, book store and other buildings of a law school are spread out horizontally,” says LaBarre, who is also principal architect in charge of project. “But with this project all of those functions are stacked vertically.”
He says the design tries to avoid “the old stodgy image of a law school, while creating a building that is a forward-thinking view of the future, without any historical references.”
Located on Island Avenue in San Diego’s East Village, the eight-story project is currently more than halfway complete, with crews wrapping up the exterior and working on interior finishes. When construction is done in late December, the school will be ready to welcome 950 students from its existing campus 5 mi away.
Highlights of the 177,000-sq-ft private school project include a two-story law library; three levels of subterranean parking with 175 spaces; two outdoor terraces on the fifth and eighth floors, with landscaping and meeting areas for students and faculty; and a three-story grand lobby with a spiral staircase. Next to the lobby will be public commercial space, housing a café, bookstore and a legal clinic operated by the school.
For classrooms, students and teachers will meet in six lecture halls with 20-ft-tall ceilings. LaBarre says the classrooms were intentionally located to the interior of the building, surrounded by circulation and collaboration spaces, so that students could be next to window walls and look out to the city, when studying or socializing.
While shooting for LEED gold certification, the project will take advantage of its location across the street from a large public transportation station, and employ energy-saving systems such as photovoltaic solar panels on the roof.
To achieve a modern look, the design utilizes an elaborate exterior skin.
“We are working with very high levels of finishes and a combination composite exterior skin that involves glass, metal panels and stone,” says Al Schafer project executive with New York-based Bovis Lend Lease, the project’s general contractor. “This is challenging because you’ve got three different materials and they all have to work together and be integrated into one waterproof exterior skin.”
Construction on the Thomas Jefferson School of Law began in December 2008. A couple months into excavation, crews unearthed the tusk, skull and other bones of a 500,000-year-old Columbian Mammoth.
“It is the first mammoth skull ever found in San Diego County,” says Tom Demere, curator of paleontology at San Diego Natural History Museum.
Because the discovery was made in a small corner of the construction site, work was not affected or delayed.