Spectrum IV / Vertex Pharmaceuticals Research & Development Site
San Diego
Best Project, Project of the Year Finalist

Owner: Alexandria Real Estate Equities Inc.
Lead Design Firm: DGA
General Contractor: BNBuilders Inc.

Tasked with creating a workspace that tells Vertex Pharmaceutical’s story, designers envisioned a research facility that promotes health and wellness and fosters innovation from an already highly collaborative and connected community.

Vertex is a biotechnology company that develops transformative medicine for people with serious and life-threatening diseases. San Diego is one of the company’s three research hubs, and it has more than a dozen ongoing research programs and is home to the team that discovered and developed the first medicines to treat the underlying causes of cystic fibrosis.

To convey the company’s origin story in respiratory-disease research, the team incorporated the idea of breathing through architecture, landscape and art. The building’s layout resembles the human lungs—two wings connected by a central corridor, or “trachea.”

To reinforce the idea of a living, breathing building, the entire rear of the clear glass structure showcases unobstructed views of a canyon. And to instill a sense of pride in the new space, light fixtures and mosaic-tile art replicate a molecule discovered by Vertex. 

With a bigger facility, Vertex hoped to create a collaborative, inspirational ecosystem, in contrast to the original space’s layout, which divided teams and limited green spaces and daylight. The lab also embraces the surrounding community with the inclusion of a Learning Lab that allows guests, schools, universities and employees’ families an opportunity to experience the science happening at the site.

The site created several design and building challenges, including observance of flight patterns for birds, density and height restrictions, and conservation requirements for sensitive natural habitat. The project team used BIM to ensure proper installation of embeds in concrete and masonry and augmented reality to verify that all MEP installations were installed correctly.

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