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488 acres, in the foothills of Mount Burdell, north of Novato on the west side of Highway 101

Index to Projects in California

Marin County, California

Gross Floor Area
Phase I: 165,000 s/f
Total: 355,000 s/f

Buck Center for Research in Aging, Novato, CA

Time Frame
Planning: 1989–
Construction: 7/96–
   Phase I - 7/99

Buck Institute for Age Research

Marin County, California
Completed 1999


Lead Designers:



I. M. Pei
L.C. Pei


A multi-disciplinary biomedical and psychosocial research and education complex

This phased three-story laboratory / education / conference / administration complex was designed for multi-disciplinary research into Alzheimer's and other diseases that reduce the quality of older people's lives. It is located on 488 acres of pastureland in the foothills of Mount Burdell, just north of San Francisco. Clad in honey-colored travertine to blend with the native golden grasses, the complex was designed to complement and enhance the natural setting while promoting interaction among researchers.

The 355,000-square-foot project includes five linked buildings around a one-acre hexagonal courtyard designed with the Office of Dan Kiley to provide a green oasis for quiet contemplation and outdoor activities. Visitors enter through the Administration Building, where community outreach programs and a 230-seat auditorium are located off a large skylit exhibition space. Laboratory modules are similarly organized around central atria, each designed to promote a sense of identity and community while animating the interior with natural light.

All of the buildings are positioned to take full advantage of spectacular views of the surrounding hillside, with San Francisco and the Bay beyond.  A glazed pedestrian arcade unites the individual components physically, visually, and also programmatically as researchers encounter one another in their movement through the complex, engaging in conversation and spontaneously exchanging ideas in a stimulating outdoor environment brought inside.


Major Components

Phase I: Administration building and one research module (with laboratories and support) linked by a glazed pedestrian arcade, terraced parking. Subsequent Phases: 1–3 additional research modules, future housing



New York Association of Consulting Engineers: Engineering Excellence Competition:
First Prize, Structural — Buildings Category


Pei Cobb Freed & Partners services

Site Planning and Design; Complete Architectural Services



Leslie E. Robertson Associates, New York, NY 


Mechanical / Electrical

John L. Altieri, Norwalk, CT 


Associate Architect

Office of Dan Kiley, Charlotte, VT



Photo credits

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