Architectural Record reviews the Terasaki Research Institute in Westwood, California designed by professor Hitoshi Abe.

According to architect Hitoshi Abe, Dr. Paul I. Terasaki, a scientist and philanthropist, loved three things: his Japanese heritage; the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), his alma mater and longtime employer; and his ground-breaking research on human tissue typing, a process critical to the success of organ transplants. The late doctor’s three passions come together in Abe’s newest project, the Terasaki Research Institute, a serene, inviting facility near UCLA’s campus that serves as the public face and headquarters of the namesake scientific organization.

Location is part of its appeal. Abe revamped a 1930s-era masonry infill building on a busy street in L.A.’s Westwood neighborhood to craft the 15,000-square-foot project, nestled within an eclectic but unremarkable stretch of low-rise chain stores and eateries. Its streamlined stucco facade featuring a crisp aluminum canopy offers visual relief from the surrounding hodgepodge of corporate logos and promotional signs—an example of the power of simplicity. “Pedestrians often stop to look through the windows and see what’s happening inside,” Abe says.

These glimpses reveal a foyer with a small bookstore and a reading room, and beyond them a generous atrium with clusters of seating, a space far brighter and more expansive than suggested by the surrounding context. Not only is this interior a big departure from others in the neighborhood, it doesn’t resemble a typical office building or headquarters.

From the outset, Terasaki envisioned a new headquarters that would reflect the institute’s emerging role in public outreach to promote organ donation. (Its core scientific research still takes place in a laboratory a few miles away.) He wanted some kind of central space for lectures, public events, and informal gatherings, surrounded by workspaces for administrative and managerial personnel. He gave a sketch of his ideas to Abe soon after tapping him for the commission; the two men had met in 2007, when the Japanese architect was named chair of UCLA’s Department of Architecture and Urban Design, a post he held for 10 years. “We agreed that including a large common area would reflect the institute’s values of collaboration, innovation, and engaging the community,” Abe says. The challenge was fitting an ambitious program—multipurpose public space, offices, a few conference rooms, a small laboratory, and support spaces—into a tight, two-story shell, where the only significant exposure to daylight comes from the westfacing street elevation.

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