The University of California, Santa Barbara’s (UCSB) new San Joaquin Villages by Lorcan O’Herlihy Architects (LOHA), Skidmore, Owings, & Merrill (SOM), and Kevin Daly Architects (KDA) opened to student residents during the fall 2017 semester. The expansive project brings over 1,000 student beds and a string of campus amenities clustered around open courtyards to the housing-starved university’s North Campus.

The village master plan was created by SOM, which also completed the new  Tenaya Towers—a pair of six-story housing blocks—to create 65 new, three-bedroom, two-bath apartments. For the project, SOM designed a pair of parallel towers that are oriented east-to-west that are studded with projecting balconies to help maintain passive airflow and enrich student life. SOM also added a new freestanding pavilion to a plaza located between the two towers that will contain study spaces and a recreation room. In addition, the towers are outfitted with rooftop terraces overlooking the public spaces below.

The project also includes a new dinning commons by architects KieranTimberlake.

The project site was reworked by landscape architect Tom Leader and Sherwood Design Engineers—which provided civil engineering and site design—to redirect stormwater runoff into new biofiltration planters and bioswales that will purify the captured water before draining it into adjacent wetlands.

Social spaces float around the complex with linked walkways. (Bruce Damonte)

The adjacent North Village site is carved up into four principal parcels, with LOHA and KDA each taking two sites to create a patchwork of low-rise, interconnected housing blocks. The intentionally utilitarian accommodations are linked by acrobatic exterior circulation and shared student amenity spaces, like a handsome laundromat outfitted with operable awning windows and a spare, wood fin-clad organic market. Together, these areas bring 107 three-bedroom, two-bath apartments to UCSB.

Lorcan O’Herlihy, principal at LOHA, said, “UCSB dormitories have typically pushed circulation to their exterior envelope, with an inert central courtyard accessible only from within the building. [Our] design inverts this circulation scheme, [creating] a reductive exterior edge with an open, lively interior courtyard containing all building circulation, encouraging movement throughout the complex.”

The grouped structures are made up of shifting, canted geometries and are clad alternately in corrugated metal panels, wood fins, and stucco along the exterior, campus-facing areas. The LOHA-designed blocks feature painted plaster walls along the courtyard exposures. Social hubs—including reading rooms, social spaces, and dining facilities—float around the complex, projecting from second-floor perches in some instances, tucked snugly below elevated walkways in others.

The units themselves are designed with passive ventilation in mind, and windows are wrapped in both vertical and shaped aluminum sunshades, depending on the orientation and structure.

Overall, the multifaceted project updates campus housing, deeply embedding shared social experiences into campus life through simple ornamentation and permeability.

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