John Friedman Alice Kimm Architects (JFAK)

John Friedman Alice Kimm Architects (JFAK)

Los Angeles, CA


Graduate Aerospace Laboratories (GALCIT) - Caltech

Housed in a historically-protected structure originally designed by Bertram Goodhue in 1921, GALCIT has accomplished revolutionary breakthroughs in aerospace engineering. The renovation of the department’s 33,000 square feet of labs, conference rooms, and common spaces acknowledges these past achievements while also suggesting the multitude of exciting directions for its future.

Drawing on the idea of “flow,” a concept central to aerospace engineering, many of the project’s forms were derived by imagining the building as an “architectural wind tunnel.” The complex curves of the lobby ceiling element, fabricated of PETG thermoplastic using advanced software and computer-controlled machines, is a prime example. The felt ceiling of the main conference room is a direct representation of a seminal flow diagram by Theodore von Karman, the founder of both GALCIT and Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

New glazed walls and windows bring light into formerly dark labs and classrooms, while also allowing views of the innovative research being performed inside. The heightened transparency inspires an atmosphere of interdisciplinary collaboration and cooperation. Many walls incorporate vitrines that display historical artifacts. The overall result is that GALCIT’s students and faculty are constantly inspired by past achievements, as well as by their own collaborative and creative interactions.


  • 2011 AIA/CC Merit Award
  • 2011 Westside Urban Forum Design Citation Award
  • 2010 Southern California Development Forum (SCDF) Design Award
  • 2010 Los Angeles Business Council Los Angeles Architectural Award of Excellence
  • 2009 Architect Annual Design Review Citation Award
  • 2009 Architectural Record Record Interiors Award
  • 2009 Real Estate & Construction Review Building of America Award
  • 2009 AIA/Pasadena & Foothill Merit Award
  • 2008 3form People’s Choice Best Installation Award, Best Ceiling
  • 2007 AIA/Los Angeles Next LA Merit Award

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Status: Built
Location: Pasadena, CA, US
Firm Role: Architect
Additional Credits: Principals-in-Charge: Alice Kimm, John Friedman
Project Architect: Claudia Kessner
Project Designers: Brendan Beachler, Garrett Belmont, Robert McFadden
Project Team: Pamela Schriever, Daniel Poei
Project Assistants: Casey Hughes, Long Truong
Structural Engineer: TMAD Taylor + Gaines
Mechanical and Plumbing Engineer: MEDG Engineers
Electrical Engineer: Pacific Engineers Group
Lighting Design: Light Vision, FIRE Ltd.
Graphic Design: Patricia Kovic, Maureen Nishikawa
General Contractor: Del Amo Construction
Photography: Fotoworks

Historic Exterior
Historic Exterior