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Land Matters
Tod Williams Billie Tsien chosen for UC Santa Cruz Institute of the Arts and Sciences.
A conceptual rendering of the project.
Courtesy TWBT

UC Santa Cruz’s has selected Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects (TWBT) to design its new Institute of the Arts and Sciences facility, which will combine academic and museum functions and encourage research that bridges the arts and sciences with other disciplines. “As soon as they walked into the room they pulled two tables together and we were talking,” said institute founding director John Weber. “It was clear they wanted collaboration. They wanted to talk to us.”

In addition to the firm’s collaborative approach, Weber said UC Santa Cruz was impressed with TWBT’s reverential attitude toward the site. The 30,000-square-foot building, sited next to a forest of Redwoods and Ancient Oaks and overlooking the Monterey Bay, will provide space for research, installations, exhibits, seminars, and residencies by artists and scholars. “They’re avoiding monumental gestures and monumental scale and showing a real sensitivity to the landscape. That seemed appropriate. You can’t dominate that site. It’s too dramatic,” said Weber.


The $32 to $40 million facility’s design is still very conceptual (official renderings should be ready by August, said Weber), but at this point TWBT has laid out a minimalist grouping of buildings organized around a central courtyard, all enveloped in thick foliage and, in some cases, embedded into the landscape. Pathways and bridges will help connect the facilities, and in some cases it appears visitors will be able to walk on top of the buildings.

“The buildings have an ethos making them an experience more than an object in the land,” said TWBT spokesperson Octavia Giovannini-Torelli. Williams and Tsien were traveling at press time, but previously they called the site one of the most beautiful they have ever worked on.


TWBT won last year’s AIA Firm of the Year award, and have been practicing in New York for over 25 years. Its American Folk Art Museum in New York is infamously being replaced by Diller Scofidio + Renfro’s reorganization of MOMA. The firm is currently working on the United States Mexico City Embassy Compound, set for completion next year.

TWBT is collaborating on the project with San Francisco firm TEF, with which it developed Berkeley’s C.V. Starr East Asian Library. It beat out two other teams shortlisted for the commission: Allied Works and Patkau Architects with Fong and Chan.

Sam Lubell