Location: Pasadena, California

Client: Jet Propulsion Laboratory

The Jet Propulsion Laboratory is managed by the California Institute of Technology, and is NASA’s lead center for robotic exploration of the solar system as well as a center for astrophysics and earth and space sciences. The Laboratory occupies a 130-acre site in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains north of Pasadena. For its ten-year horizon master plan, the Laboratory sought to align its physical development program with its operations strategic plan while also addressing improvements to the quality of life at the Lab for purposes of recruitment and retention.

The master plan reflects recent changes in JPL’s business model, designates clusters of process and technology “centers,” defines strategies for a workplace design that facilitates interaction within a flexible framework of development and outlines a capital program of buildings, open space networks, parking and access.

The master plan is based on a vision of the future of the Laboratory that sees it maintaining its preeminent position in the science and technology of space exploration, and firmly establishing itself at the top of the list of desirable places in the world to work. The plan serves as a goalpost toward which the Lab can progress towards this vision, and defines a framework of choices and strategies for development decisions along the way. Principal features of the plan include: enhanced landscape, a pedestrian-oriented core, collaborative places and a sense of professional community, strong security and a clear identity, rational circulation and adequate parking, flexible facilities, and convenient services and amenities.

The plan defines organizational strategies at many scales and was generated from extensive dialog with the Laboratory’s staff and JPL Executive Council about the future of the Lab and the ways that the site can best help support and realize that future. The resulting plan envisions a Laboratory setting that is part of its natural surroundings, connecting visually and physically with the foothill environment and the adjoining watershed area. Sketches of key areas in the new pedestrian core are meant to illustrate how the qualities of comfort, shade and visual beauty will be extended to all the places on the Lab where people work, walk, and congregate.

Johnson Fain served as Design Architect for the Laboratory’s Flight Projects Center, a critical first phase project identified in the master plan. The facility is comprised of a 192,000 square foot, six-story office building including a 7,500 square foot Review Center, and 400-seat lecture hall. This project was designed under the government’s design/build delivery method, under strict Federal sustainable measures.