The ILP at UC Santa Barbara
LMN's Interactive Learning Pavilion Wins US Building of the Year
30. January 2024
US Building of the Year 2023: Interactive Learning Pavilion, UC Santa Barbara (Image: World-Architects; photographs by Patrick Price)
The Interactive Learning Pavilion at the University of California, Santa Barbara received the most votes in our poll for US Building of the Year 2023. Designed by Seattle's LMN Architects, the classroom building consists of two volumes astride an open-air “street” that, in the architects' words, “encourages serendipitous interactions among students and faculty.”
Centrally located on the main campus of UC Santa Barbara, the Interactive Learning Pavilion (ILP) is notable as the first dedicated classroom building to be constructed there since 1967. The 90,000-square-foot ILP consists of five lecture halls, three project-based learning rooms, and twenty seminar-sized classrooms, all serving 2,000 students. The building was much-needed: it increased classroom space on campus by 35%, such that a quarter of the university's classroom space is now provided for in the ILP.
Looking east toward the ILP from Storke Tower. (Photo: Patrick Price)
Oriented east-west and aligned with the campus's landmark Storke Tower, the building is sited and designed to follow the university's Long Range Development Plan, particularly in regards to two major pedestrian paths that intersect at the building and connect different parts of the main campus.
Architecturally, the building is most striking for the sculptural form of the outdoor space between the two volumes. While flat walls with vertical windows and concrete panels cover the outward-facing elevations, striated bands of polished concrete block define the curved walls of the central circulation corridor. These curved walls and corresponding terraces are not arbitrary, though, as they correspond with the shape of the lecture halls within and relate to the seaside cliffs at the edges of the UC Santa Barbara campus. Furthermore, the curved walls appear funnel-like, as in the photo below, as if drawing students into the open-air street.
Approaching the ILP from the west. (Photo: Patrick Price)
The ILP is not alone in providing a generous circulation space that aims, in part, to encourage serendipitous interactions among students and faculty. Yet, unlike many higher-education buildings around the country that enclose such spaces within large footprints, LMN Architects was able to take advantage of Santa Barbara's Mediterranean-type climate and put the flexible circulation space outside, breaking up the mass of the building in the process and stitching together the east and west sides of the main campus.
The ILP opened in spring 2023 as the campus's first fully electric facility and earned a LEED Gold Certificate in the fall.
In addition to an elevator tower, stairs, and walkways, the outdoor space at ILP has generous patios with shade and a variety of seating. (Photo: Patrick Price)
Stephen Van Dyck, partner at LMN, on hearing about the US Building of the Year win for the ILP:
“This is an honor, one I share with the incredible team at LMN, our design team collaborators, and with the University. It is gratifying to hear how appealing this building is with your readers, with the voters of the poll. We continue to hear great things from the University about the success of the project with students and faculty, and it is thrilling for our work to be supporting the important educational and research mission of UC Santa Barbara. This win is a testament to the leadership vision at UCSB and the significance of this building and its place on campus.”
One of the five tiered lecture halls inside the ILP. (Photo: Tim Griffith)
Look for a longer feature on the Interactive Learning Pavilion, UC Santa Barbara — the US Building of the Year 2023 — at a later date.
The US Building of the Year poll on American-Architects was open for most of January and asked visitors to the website to pick their favorite building from the nearly 40 Buildings of the Week featured in 2023. The Interactive Learning Pavilion won by a wide margin, tallying approximately 42% of the roughly 5,000 votes cast. The three runners-up are listed below, with links to their respective Buildings of the Week.
Second Place (14% of votes): University of Iowa Stanley Museum of Art in Iowa City (IA) by BNIM Architects (Photo: Nick Merrick)
Third Place (7% of votes): Paul D. Wachholz College Center, Flathead Valley Community College in Kalispell (MT) by Cushing Terrell (Photo: Heidi Long, Longviews Studios)
Fourth Place (6% of votes): The Press in Costa Mesa (CA) by Ehrlich Yanai Rhee Chaney Architects (Photo: Matthew Millman)
Congratulations to the winner and runners-up — and a big thanks to you, our readers, for voting!
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- 2021: Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library in Washington, DC by Mecanoo and OTJ Architects
- 2020: Esperanza Wellness Campus in Chicago (IL) by JGMA
- 2019: Ed Kaplan Family Institute for Innovation and Tech Entrepreneurship in Chicago (IL) by John Ronan Architects
- 2018: Thomas P. Murphy Design Studio Building in Coral Gables (FL) by Arquitectonica
- 2017: Design Building at the University of Massachusetts Amherst in Amherst (MA) by Leers Weinzapfel Associates
- 2016: Sharon Fieldhouse in Clifton Forge (VA) by design/buildLAB
- 2015: FKI Tower in Seoul (South Korea) by Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture
- 2014: Lafayette College Arts Plaza in Easton (PA) by Spillman Farmer Architects; and Henderson-Hopkins School in Baltimore (MD) by ROGERS PARTNERS Architects+Urban Designers
- 2013: Glen Oaks Branch Library in New York (NY) by Marble Fairbanks
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