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12/05/2007 08:00:00

Caltech Breaks Ground on Annenberg Center

PASADENA, Calif.-The California Institute of Technology will break ground on the Walter and Leonore Annenberg Center for Information Science and Technology at 11 a.m. December 7 at Caltech.

The building, designed by the architectural firm Frederick Fisher and Partners in Los Angeles, will serve as home to participants of the IST initiative, a program of interdisciplinary research and instruction that addresses the growth and impact of information as it relates to all science and engineering practices. Researchers in this initiative come from many academic divisions at Caltech. The aim of the new facility is to bring these individuals together to foster collaboration and interdisciplinary research and teaching intrinsic to this emerging academic discipline.

IST has launched four new research centers to answer these questions: What are the theoretical foundations of information? What are the fundamental physical limits to information? How does nature compute and communicate information? And how does information shape social systems? Other important questions will be pursued as IST evolves. A new information-centered curriculum is being developed. Programs to engage the broader academic community in IST have been taking place, and more are being planned for the new center.

The Annenberg Foundation donated $25 million toward the construction of the approximately 50,000-square-foot building. Founded in 1989 by Walter H. Annenberg, the Annenberg Foundation exists to advance the public well-being through improved communication. As the principal means of achieving its goal, the foundation encourages the development of more effective ways to share ideas and knowledge. Annenberg's widow Leonore, the president and chairman of the foundation, was personally involved in the grant request and has met with the Institute's President Jean-Lou Chameau on several occasions to plan the building design.

"I want to acknowledge and thank Mrs. Annenberg, the president of the Annenberg Foundation, for being so personally involved with this project," said Chameau. "During our various conversations, she offered much thoughtful and valuable advice, particularly about the building's aesthetics."

The Annenberg Center will include several small classrooms, an 80-seat lecture hall, and a large instructional computer lab, as well as studio and office space for IST initiative professors and students. Three spaces characterize the collaborative nature of the new building. A two-story lounge is designed to attract people from different research areas, offering a setting for reading and conversation. Most offices and studios will face an atrium that will also span two floors. This area will function as another informal gathering space. An outdoor area with electrical power, wireless access, and seating will be used for receptions, impromptu discussions, and even small classes.

The project strives to achieve a LEED Silver Rating, and is scheduled to be completed in the summer of 2009. The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System, developed by the U.S. Green Building Council, provides a suite of standards for environmentally sustainable construction. The building will be one of three new LEED-rated buildings on the Caltech campus.

The groundbreaking ceremony will include remarks by Wallis Annenberg, vice president of the Annenberg Foundation; Jehoshua (Shuki) Bruck, Gordon and Betty Moore Professor of Computation and Neural Systems and Electrical Engineering and founding director of IST; and Frederick Fisher, the building's architect.

For more information about IST, visit

Written by Jill Perry