Meyer & Allen Associates

Caltech Master Plan

Location:Pasadena, CA
Size:125 Acres; 2,000,000 sq. ft.

This Master Plan, while prepared for the California Institute of Technology, was adopted by the City of Pasadena as the zoning code for development of all new academic, residential and support facilities at the campus.  The Plan was the result of a two-year planning effort which involved over thirty meetings with neighborhood groups, city staff and commissions.

Intended to address both the Institute’s needs and the community’s concerns, the Plan: 1) codified guidelines for the growth of the campus, respecting the scale and density of adjacent neighborhoods and giving certainty to the Institute’s future development rights; and 2) created a design which organizes future growth along open space axes and extends the original campus plan’s classical structure.

For a number of years there was conflict between the prestigious California Institute of Technology in Pasadena and property owners in the surrounding residential areas.  At the heart of the controversy was Caltech’s piecemeal encroachment on its neighbors, due to the lack of a comprehensive master plan for campus expansion.  At the same time, faculty members complained of the way that architect Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue’s original vision for Caltech had been compromised by the clumsily designed and randomly located buildings added during post-World War II expansion.

M&AA was commissioned to prepare a new 25-year master plan for the campus, which accommodates around 4,000 faculty and students.  Taking account of the prickly situation with the surrounding community, M&AA guided Caltech through an extensive process of consultation with its neighbors and the City of Pasadena Planning Department, along with the University’s faculty and administration.

The central concept of the master plan that emerged from all these meetings and discussion is the extension of Goodhue’s 1917 organization of formal malls unifying clusters of individual buildings.  As the campus grows, the dispersed postwar facilities will be contained between a new mall and the original one, restoring Caltech’s historic community and harmonizing the architecture of the original and the expanded campus.  At its edges Caltech will reflect the character of the residential neighborhoods with low-rise buildings and a 50-foot park strip bordering busy Del Mar Boulevard.  The plan, approved by local officials and community representatives, gives Caltech license to construct an additional 2.0 million sq. ft. of buildings, doubling the size of the existing facilities on campus.