After four and a half years of planning and construction and a $97 million budget, the Interactive Learning Pavillion was revealed to the campus in Spring 2023 following a 50-year stagnation in constructing new instruction buildings. 

ILP project stakeholders and the campus community reflected on the building. Maddy Fangio / Daily Nexus

By the end of the year, the Interactive Learning Pavilion (ILP) won “US Building of the Year” in a contest by World-Architects with 42% of 5,000 votes. 

The four-story building added 2,000 seats to campus, an approximately 33% increase in capacity. The 95,000 square foot expanse, located next to the UCSB Library and northwest of the Psychology building, includes five of the largest lecture spaces on campus, 20 “flex classrooms” and three “project-based learning classrooms.”   

Additionally, the ILP was the first fully electric building on campus and earned a Gold Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certificate, responding to the university’s Carbon Neutrality Initiative.

The building worked into the UCSB Long Range Development Plan (LRDP), managing traffic and sprawl by extending the library walk strip and connecting two major parts of campus. 

Following the award, ILP project stakeholders and the campus community reflected on the building’s planning, construction and campus impact.

An idea in 2018

The early project planning guide document, prepared by UCSB’s Capital Development office in 2018, sought an answer to the shortage of general assignment classrooms. Instructors also wanted a modern instructional facility that could “support innovative teaching methodologies,” including active learning and project-based pedagogies, according to ILP Project Manager and Liana Khammash. Khammash tracked the budget and schedule and ensured an efficient design with “high-quality materials.”

“This expansion was aimed at mitigating student waitlists and reducing dependency on evening classes and assembly rooms,” Khammash said.

When it came down to picking the architects for the project, it was a “competitive process,” according to Khammash. LMN Architects, who previously designed the UC Irvine Anteater Learning Pavilion, initially presented an open-air “street” space that “enclosed in two major forms around a central, east-west oriented outdoor circulation space,” winning over the New Classroom Building Committee. 

LMN was also selected for their sustainability in green building practices and materials to minimize environmental impact, aligning with the LRDP’s goal of committing to environmental issues.

During the ILP construction stage, which began in October 2020, the pandemic posed several hurdles, including material delays and shortages. The ILP team had to adapt to keep within the two-year construction timeline. 

Another problem was figuring out the logistics of its ambition to host thousands of students every hour. 

“I believe the challenge during the design period was related to ensuring that the movement of 2,000 students in and out of the building at the top of hours flowed naturally and easily and connected efficiently to the rest of campus,” Khammash said.

Implementing climate and ecology in design 

UCSB’s ILP took inspiration from the UCI space, with its multi-tiered, curved walls and vertically-scaling glass panels to segment large exterior chunks of polished stone. The two major units curve inwards to an escalating stairway, with overlapping internal walkways and two student lounging spaces, the design sought open circulation and encouraged “serendipitous interactions between faculty and students,” according to a university website.

LMN Architects Principal Jennifer Milliron said the building was inspired by local vernacular architecture and the nearby seaside cliffs. The large exterior terraces and sculpted nature of the units represent the cliffs, and the materials metaphorically “had a similar texture and materiality as the sandstone of the cliffs,” Milliron said. 

Another aspect the architects wanted to take advantage of was the sun and skyline. They conducted several sun and shading studies to ensure outdoor spaces were protected from the wind and had access to light.

“This project feels like it could only exist at UC Santa Barbara,” Milliron said.
“It feels really of its place and I think we wouldn’t have designed this anywhere else.”

From the beginning, the university aimed to achieve LEED Gold certification. In its scoring, the ILP earned all 18 LEED energy points, both green power points and all three renewable energy production points. 

This score includes the biking parking lot and bike path to the rear end of the building, the outdoor classroom entrances to reduce total conditioned area and energy use and “biophilic” daylight exposure in large and medium-sized classrooms.

The ILP also had low energy use intensity, a design optimized for temperature swings and, in the construction process, designed for energy-use optimization and diverted more than half of construction waste from the landfill. 

In its long-term plan, the ILP plans to accommodate photovoltaic panels, a nonmechanical device that converts sunlight directly into electricity on its roof. It was not implemented before due to funding constraints. 

“A jungle gym for adults”

After nearly a year of serving the campus community, students and faculty have largely positive opinions on the ILP. 

Jeremy White, a UCSB architecture professor specializing in modern architecture studies, noted two key issues with the building: the corridor between the library and the ILP, and the first and second floor waiting spaces.

The corridor ajar to the ILP has caused community backlash in the past, with the Associated Students Bike Committee releasing a May 8 statement addressing the concerns over accessibility. 

White also noted that there is not enough seating space in the waiting spaces on the first and second floors to accommodate students waiting outside for their lectures at peak hours. 

“Trying to move around that building, say at five o’clock, for instance, can be a madhouse because you’ve got, about 2000 people coming out of lecture halls, and then you’ve got 2000 trying to get in,” White said.

He commended the waiting spaces on the third and fourth floors and the larger lecture halls, which seemed to be “designed with students in mind.”

“I taught in there and I can definitely see the attitude of the students. I think they appreciate those spaces,” White said.

Fourth-year film and media studies major Daniel Murillo took a film and media studies class and has regular TA meetings in the interactive learning rooms. He said the outside environment is “peaceful” and the classrooms are “pretty chill.”

“There’s nothing to complain about. I like the chairs because you can just move around and stuff,” Murillo said. 

Third-year biology and psychology and brain sciences double major Devon Schlesinger took several writing classes in the interactive rooms and a psychology class in the lecture hall. She likes the way the lecture halls are set up.

“I feel like we’re more spread out than other classes and I have a better view of everything,” Schlesinger said. “The best lecture hall I think we have on campus.”

“A lot of the buildings here are really old and nasty, but this building is cool to look at and I look forward to taking classes in it,” she continued.

Third-year physics major Aedan Cataldo said he’s had a few sections in the interactive learning rooms. He says the rooms are comfortable but the whiteboards are underutilized.

“It kind of feels like a jungle gym for adults, honestly. It’s multi-layered. It’s very strangely shaped and it’s got lots of good views from it. So I like it,” Cataldo said.

Khammash said the feedback she’s heard from the wider campus community has been “overwhelmingly positive” and satisfactory to the ILP team. 

Milliron said her favorite aspect of the ILP is that the design expression “responds to and addresses a wide range of characteristics that are unique to Santa Barbara, the UCSB campus, and the program needs of the building,” making it a building that is “truly in and of its place.”

“I imagine that its unique reflection of this really special place is one of the things that resonated with so many people,” Milliron said.

In the future, LMN Architects hopes to issue a student and faculty survey to understand what is and isn’t working with the building. 

A version of this article appeared on p. 5 of the March 7, 2024, print edition of the Daily Nexus.

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Lizzy Rager
Lizzy Rager (she/her) is the Assistant News Editor for the 2024-25 school year. She can be reached at lizzyrager@dailynexus.com