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Institute of the Arts and Sciences Moves Ahead

John Weber, Founding Director of the new Institute of the Arts and Sciences (IAS) is excited about the latest phase of planning for the Institute’s multi-dimensional facility.  "The campus has sent out a public Request for Qualifications (RFQ) which notifies the architectural world that we are seeking an Executive Architect to design the Institute's permanent facility,” Weber notes. “It is truly exciting to be at this stage. The RFQ sends a dramatic signal that we're committed to this project and a physical site for the Insitute’s program. It's a clear sign that we're moving forward, and we have made excellent progress in the past year.”

The Request for Qualifications is posted on the website of the campus Physical Planning group, headed up by Campus Architect John Barnes. This suite of documents is publically accessible to everyone who wishes to understand the vision and scope of the project. The RFQ has also been sent out directly to approximately 75 architects and firms “to insure that we find the right designer for the project," Weber explains.

The IAS gallery and museum facility as proposed will be a dynamic, interdisciplinary exhibition space and research venue. Arts Dean David Yager and Weber are looking for "an architectural gem, sensitive to the site, the light, and functionality." The Institute will include spaces for exhibitions, teaching, student activities and internships, scholar residencies, symposia, and science learning.  “We need a building that functions brilliantly to house the program of the Institute—the exhibitions, teaching activities, public events, and everything that will bring life to the physical structure,” Weber says. "It's going to be a magnet for artists, scientists, scholars, students, and the public. We are committed to making this building a signature achievement for UC Santa Cruz and a space that will exist in harmony with the natural world, which is such a deeply-held philosophy on this campus."

Unique Opportunity

"With our site and the nature of this project," Yager stressed, "the relationship of the building to the landscape is absolutely key.  There has been much conversation about the importance of our unique site, nestled between forest and meadow," next to the ARC Building between McHenry Library and the Music Center. As Weber puts it, "This will be the place to bring people from out of town, where they'll be able to get a sense of both who we are and where we are, and why that’s so important." He is personally moved by "the view of the bay, the light, and the deep sense of place that permeates this location" and mentioned some recent vivid sightings of campus wildlife, including eagles and coyotes.

The successful design for the proposed Institute of the Arts and Sciences will require threading through a complex series of requirements, addressing not only the interior spaces but the surrounding landscape as well. "Architects don't get many sites like this," Weber observes. “It’s an amazing opportunity.”

The Request for Qualifications step "is a big part of our fund-raising effort,” Yager explains.  “We'll soon be able to say that we have a site, an architectural firm, design models—all tangible, concrete steps." Proposals are due by January 13, and will be winnowed down to eight to ten semifinalists.  They will be interviewed, and eventually distilled into a final round of three. At that point, the selected firms will develop a concept scheme and give a public presentation on April 3, from 5:30 - 8:30, at a location to be announced. "Everybody is invited." John Weber says with a smile.