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June 2018 Letter to Friends of Caltech

June 11, 2018

Dear friends of Caltech,

"Construction is the art of making a meaningful whole out of many parts."
— Peter Zumthor, Royal Institute of British Architects Gold Medal Award

Traversing the Caltech campus these days can be an adventure. Fenced off areas mark the sites of no fewer than four construction projects hammering away, and one has to be mindful of heavy trucks on the usually idyllic pathways. The new buildings, three slated to open this fall, will contribute powerfully to Caltech's mission of excellence in research and education.

Cranes rise in the center of campus as the steel girders and concrete pours give shape to the new Hameetman student center. This will be a gathering place for undergraduate and graduate students alike, linking the north and south of campus, with an expanded Red Door Café for necessary doses of caffeine and the acoustically designed Frautschi rehearsal and performance space for musical interludes.

The scaffolding has come down on the south side of campus, but interior work continues as Sloan Laboratory is transformed into the Linde Hall of Mathematics and Physics. Originally conceived by George Ellery Hale as a means to attract Robert Andrews Millikan to Caltech, Sloan became a high voltage laboratory with capacious rooms and bays, but it is worn now by more than a half century of use. Housing the Institute's mathematicians, the renovated three upper floors of Linde Hall will boast offices, collaboration spaces, and state-of-the-art classrooms, with architectural nods to its history.

Framing the north of campus will be the Bechtel Residence and the Chen Neuroscience Research Building. With its 211 suite-based student beds and two faculty-in-residence apartments, Bechtel will provide for the first time in generations the ability to house all our undergraduates on campus all four years. Common rooms, a shared courtyard, and a glass-walled dining facility will help foster interactions and create community among the frosh, sophomores, juniors, and seniors in residence.

In December 2016, Tianqiao and Chrissy Chen provided an exceptionally generous gift to launch a campus-wide neuroscience initiative for interdisciplinary brain research. The 150,000-square-foot research building at the corner of Wilson and Del Mar will instantiate Caltech's commitment to discovery and the application of fundamental scientific insights into the workings of the brain to improve people's lives. Flexible laboratories, novel instrumentation, and, perhaps most important, bringing members of all six of Caltech's divisions together in beautiful interior space and exterior gardens will be key to realizing the Chen building's potential. Occupancy is planned for 2020.

The names Hameetman, Linde, Bechtel, and Chen testify to the important role that private philanthropy is playing in positioning Caltech to seize the future through the Break Through campaign. These buildings are a visual demonstration of profound impact, not only as necessary modern additions to the Institute's infrastructure, but as the means that permit us to attract and retain exceptional talent. As always at Caltech, it is fundamentally about people: providing fearless researchers and educators with the tools to break scientific and technological molds.   

When the fences and scaffolding and cranes come down, when direct, untrammeled routes through campus again emerge, we will be able to appreciate more easily the beautiful surroundings of the Caltech campus. From the time of Caltech's modern-day founders, this beauty has been considered a necessary ingredient for successful scholarship. The completed construction projects will add to Caltech's substance and ethos. Like the elements of the periodic table, they will fit together to define new patterns in a rich and complex whole.


Thomas F. Rosenbaum

Enclosure: Periodic Table of Caltech