Editor’s note: This is the third installment of a multi-part series about the new science complex at Crossroads School.

While touring colleges in the region to gather ideas for a new science center, Crossroads School officials made a discovery of their own.

During a trip to UC San Diego, they saw a project involving artificial intelligence housed in a research facility that was designed specifically for short-term projects and collaborative endeavors.

“Teams of people came up with ideas as to what they wanted to research, took over a part of the building, put in the infrastructure they needed, did their research project and, once it was over, they broke it back down and somebody else came in,” said Elaine Nesbit, project manager for the Santa Monica private school’s soon-to-be-completed Science Education & Research Facility. “It was such a cool idea.”

Crossroads incorporated the concept into its special projects pavilion, a pillar of the $20-million, 25,000-square-foot complex that will house its middle and high school science programs.

The earthy-red, 12-sided structure is connected to the main building by bridges on each level and is meant to serve as a flexible space for students to perform experiments, conduct independent research and work together on interdisciplinary undertakings.

The building will be equipped with specialized lighting and ceiling hanging points, among other amenities.

The special projects pavilion wasn’t even part of the Crossroads plan until after the UCSD visit, Nesbit said.

“We wanted to see what people are doing at the university level,” she said. “It was like a black-box theater. It’s really re-thinking how science gets taught on a regular basis.”

Science is literally embedded in the building, which has two 800-square-foot rooms and an 800-square-foot rooftop living laboratory.

The dodecagon’s exterior features horizontal strips of natural artifacts — rocks, shells, fossils, petrified wood, stalagmites, stalactites, fossilized shark teeth and dinosaur dung, even fool’s gold — that were arranged by Crossroads students.

Developers took photographs of the students’ arrangements and duplicated their designs in decorative strata that accent the Shotcrete walls.

“It’s great to have the students engaged throughout the whole process,” architect Mandi Roberts said.

The pavilion was inspired in part by Crossroads seniors’ annual trip to the Ojai Foundation, an educational retreat that is considered a rite of passage for graduating students.

“It’s about gathering together,” Nesbit said. “So, with this space, we didn’t want a traditional classroom.”

Students also contributed to a compass that is engraved in the center of the pavilion’s rooftop. School officials solicited designs from graphic design students, whose artistic fixture highlights the change in magnetic north from 1971, when the school was founded, to 2015, when the pavilion will be completed.

“It’s a teaching tool,” Nesbit said.

Contact Jeff Goodman at 310-573-8351, jeff@www.smdp.com or on Twitter.

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