Bechtel Family Center for Ocean Education and Leadership
Contractor: Blach Construction
Structural: Rutherford + Chekene
Civil: Whitson Engineers
Landscape: SWA Group
Acoustics: Charles Salter Associates
Lighting: Auerbach Glasow
LEED Consulting: Urban Fabrick
Animal Life Support System Engineer: TJP Engineering
Working alongside the Monterey Bay Aquarium, we recently completed the new Bechtel Family Center for Ocean Education and Leadership. It represents an ambitious investment in the aquarium’s mission to inspire the next generation of ocean conservation leaders. The project centers sustainability in its design, its technology, and its programming. Here, sustainability is more than a concept — it’s an integral element, a functional component of the building, and a teaching tool for science education.
Designed to engage architecturally with the industrial history of Cannery Row, the infill concrete-frame structure features large expanses of corrugated fiber-cement panels, as well as as a transparent ground floor that stretching across the ocean-facing glass façade to connect visitors inside with the Pacific Ocean across the street. The entryway along Cannery Row cuts into the building at a dramatic angle, diverting passers-by to a new public exhibit space and maintaining the active Cannery Row streetscape experience.
Inside, the building opens up to high ceilings and wide spaces designed to be flexible without sacrificing the requirements of the uniquely programmed spaces. Primary vertical circulation is housed in a triple-height glazed space that runs along the eastern façade, a pronounced gateway to the heart of the project on the second floor: four STEM learning labs that open up to wide views of the ocean, connecting the lessons inside with their real-world expressions. Live animal exhibits within the labs are complemented by a life-support system that mirrors that in the main aquarium building, with mechanical, biological, and chemical filtration elements serving a closed-loop seawater circulation system. Four large, dedicated classrooms are designed to meet the current need of 80,000 students visiting annually, with additional generously sized spaces within the building, allowing the facility to grow with increasing future demand.
The uppermost floor serves as a conference center and event space for Aquarium and community events. Its design achieves seamless continuity between the enclosed pavilion space and an exterior wraparound deck and living roof that allows the entirety of the perimeter to be used for instruction. The integrated and multi-faceted nature of the pavilion echoes that of the entire project: flexibility-by-design that will allow the space to be adapted and re-used for years to come, stretching out the life of each its material components and the sustainability of the project as a whole.