<p>Located at the front edge of the site along a public road, the Portola Commons is the front door, social center, and outward presence of the San Joaquin complex. <small>&copy;Bruce Damonte</small></p>

Located at the front edge of the site along a public road, the Portola Commons is the front door, social center, and outward presence of the San Joaquin complex. ©Bruce Damonte

<p>As the threshold for the San Joaquin Villages, the Portola Commons attracts and welcomes residents and visitors while also engaging the public road, transit networks, and campus bike paths. <small>&copy;Bruce Damonte</small> </p>

As the threshold for the San Joaquin Villages, the Portola Commons attracts and welcomes residents and visitors while also engaging the public road, transit networks, and campus bike paths. ©Bruce Damonte

<p>A key element of the Commons is a covered porch spanning the front of the building, which mitigates glare and prevents overheating while also creating a sheltered place to socialize before and after meals. <small>&copy;Bruce Damonte</small>  </p>

A key element of the Commons is a covered porch spanning the front of the building, which mitigates glare and prevents overheating while also creating a sheltered place to socialize before and after meals. ©Bruce Damonte

<p>DELETE ONE: The building serves 2,500 diners per day in an open-plan pavilion with a variety of dining options. <small>&copy;Bruce Damonte</small>  </p>

DELETE ONE: The building serves 2,500 diners per day in an open-plan pavilion with a variety of dining options. ©Bruce Damonte

<p>Tall ceilings and full-height windows let the Santa Ynez Mountains and coastal landscape define the building. <small>&copy;Bruce Damonte</small></p>

Tall ceilings and full-height windows let the Santa Ynez Mountains and coastal landscape define the building. ©Bruce Damonte

<p>A variety of food stations satisfies students' preference for variety. <small>&copy;Bruce Damonte</small>  </p>

A variety of food stations satisfies students' preference for variety. ©Bruce Damonte

<p>A 200-seat outdoor terrace lets students take advantage of Santa Barbara's climate. <small>&copy;Bruce Damonte</small>  </p>

A 200-seat outdoor terrace lets students take advantage of Santa Barbara's climate. ©Bruce Damonte

<p>A large bike lot in front of the building serves UCSB's bike-centric culture and makes the building feel welcoming and domestic. <small>&copy;Bruce Damonte</small>  </p>

A large bike lot in front of the building serves UCSB's bike-centric culture and makes the building feel welcoming and domestic. ©Bruce Damonte

<p>Located at the front edge of the site along a public road, the Portola Commons is the front door, social center, and outward presence of the San Joaquin complex. <small>&copy;Bruce Damonte</small></p>

How can we create an active social center that brings a sense of timelessness to a newly developed campus village?

When the University of California, Santa Barbara, purchased property approximately a mile from the core campus, they had a clear vision for its transformation. The former business park needed to incorporate low- and high-density student and faculty housing, a convenience store, and dining and student life facilities into an integrated complex that connects students to each other and the main campus. Dubbed the San Joaquin Villages, the University also wanted the complex to feel like a vibrant hamlet that developed gradually over time. To that end, four firms were selected to create a joint master plan, the components of which were subsequently designed and built by each firm to produce a mini-campus that is as architecturally, aesthetically, and programmatically rich as one that has evolved over time.  

A BIG, BEAUTIFUL ROOM

The Portola Dining Commons is the geographic and programmatic center of the complex. Located at the front edge of the site along a public road, the Commons is the outward presence of and front door to San Joaquin Villages. While students certainly come to eat—the building can serve 800 people at one time indoors and out—they also come to gather and socialize in a place that feels like home. The building's openness and flexibility satisfies students' preference for variety and allows them to define their own social environment.

The transparent building lights up from within at night to create a beckoning, beacon-like front door to the larger complex .©Bruce Damonte

As the threshold for the San Joaquin Village, the building needed to attract visitors while also engaging the public road, transit networks, and campus bike paths as well as Santa Barbara's mountain and ocean scenery. Rather than compete with the dramatic landscape and bustling activity, the Commons is a “big, beautiful room” whose tall ceilings and full-height windows let the Santa Ynez Mountains and coastal landscape define the building.

The covered porch welcomes students into the dining hall and helps passively cool the building. ©Bruce Damonte

RESOURCE CONSERVATION

To conserve resources, the Commons incorporates passive shading strategies, low-energy and energy-efficient systems and appliances, and rooftop solar hot water heaters into its design. These solutions led to a LEED Platinum certification and were the result of a holistic and collaborative approach to sustainability. Working closely with the University, project consultants, and construction team, our design team created a sustainable and timeless building that is precisely suited Santa Barbara's unique culture and climate.