Monterey, California, USA
Designed by Mark Cavagnero and his team at Mark Cavagnero Associates along with landscape architects SWA Group, the Bechtel Family Center for Ocean Education and Leadership is a new, four-story green facility dedicated to supporting the Monterey Bay.
The project recently won a Green Good Design® Award as well as a 2021 International Architecture Award from The European Centre for Architecture Art Design and Urban Studies and The Chicago Athenaeum.
The Aquarium’s mission to cultivate and inspire the next generation of ocean conservation leaders.
With the new Center, the Aquarium can provide their one-of-a-kind hands-on educational offerings at no cost to the 80,000 students who visit annually and double their teen and teacher programming to serve more than 110,000 annually.
With expansive ocean views throughout, the facility was designed to provide an immersive educational experience and act as a hands-on laboratory for sustainable education.
The project engages the site’s two flanking contexts — the historic streetscape of Cannery Row on one side and the recreational Coastal Trail on the other.
The architects designed the building as an infill concrete-frame structure as a nod to the district’s industrial history and architectural vernacular.
The entryway along the street-facing façade on Cannery Row is set back from the street, drawing passersby to a new public exhibit space.
Large expanses of glass that stretch across the ocean-facing façade connect activities taking place inside with the Pacific Ocean beyond.
Along the eastern side of the building, which connects the main street with the trail, they pulled the infill back to create a triple-height glazed volume, a “zone of transparency” that frames a view out onto the Pacific.
A broad, open staircase connects all three floors of the workspaces and learning labs, allowing the energy within the building to activate the streetscape and vice versa, while also functioning as a transitional element that reconciles the sloped site.
The main stair serves as a pronounced gateway to the heart of the project: four STEM learning labs, designed intentionally without a traditional “front of the room.”
The labs open up to wide views of the ocean, connecting the lessons inside with their striking real-world expression.
A closed-loop seawater life support system supports live animal exhibits.
The learning labs are designed to open up to one another in order to expand capacity and provide flexibility.
Additionally, the ground floor has ample space divided functionally into four large areas that can open up into one another, allowing most of the ground floor area to be utilized for a single event.
Atop the building, a lightweight pavilion serving primarily as a meeting space overlooks the ocean and an educational living roof planted with native shoreline plantings irrigated by captured rainwater.
The rooftop provides a welcome alternative to indoor learning spaces and is a perfect venue from which to introduce learners to the bay and help them understand the connection between the undeveloped sand dunes, local communities, and the ocean.
The team developed site-specific strategies to reduce the building’s overall demand for natural resources by studying local climatic and site constraints and energy modeling to validate approach effectiveness.
The majority of the largest programmatic spaces are designed to be passively cooled 65-80% of the time annually through the iterative design process and energy modeling.
A backup battery system tied to a photovoltaic array on the upper roof eliminates the need for a fossil fuel backup generator.
This renewable energy microgrid is a significant feature of the project sustainability for two reasons: it provides a resiliency benefit to the local community, and it is an industry-leading example of commercial building integrated energy storage.
Its coastal location means that sea-level rise is a very real threat to the building.
In anticipation that the finish floor datum of the ground floor would need to rise accordingly with any significant elevational change to the adjacent streetscape (resulting from rising sea levels), they elevated all critical equipment above the anticipated sea level rise datum, ensuring that no critical infrastructure would need to be replaced/relocated when the time came to elevate the finish floor.
Resiliency meant allowing the design to be anticipatory versus reactionary and minimize the likelihood of demolition so that the facility can serve future generations in perpetuity.
Project: Bechtel Center for Ocean Education and Leadership for Monterey Bay Aquarium
Architects: Mark Cavagnero Associates
Design Team: Mark Cavagnero, Kang Kiang, Christopher Campbell, Katy Hawkins, Natalie Ramirez, Sean Kelley, Sean Wong, Federica Carrara, Tammy LePham, Steven Brummond, Carol Ishii, Timothy Waters, David Kwon, Jacqueline Law, Jaime Colburn, Sara Sepandar, and Charlotte Hofstette
Landscape Architects: SWA Group
Client: Monterey Bay Aquarium
General Contractor: Blach Construction
Photographers: Tim Griffith