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Special Live Presentation & Virtual Exhibit on June 24, 2020: Wetlands Education & Research Center in Mission Bay, San Diego

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June 18, 2020


Special Live Presentation & Virtual Exhibit on June 24, 2020: Wetlands Education & Research Center in Mission Bay, San Diego


San Diego, CA (June 18, 2020) — NewSchool of Architecture & Design (NewSchool) has collaborated with the UC San Diego Natural Reserve System to explore visions for a new Wetlands Education and Research Center (WERC) in the northeast corner of Mission Bay.

For the last academic year, 54 fourth year NewSchool Integrated Design Studio students joined in the third quarter by 19 Interior Design students, have been working on everything from master plan and site selection to building design. Their goal is a building that can educate K-12 students in science for the 21st century, serve as a community gathering spot, and promote research to better understand how Mission Bay can contribute to San Diego’s climate resiliency. The students have taken that vision and created iconic buildings with imaginative forms reflective of the surroundings while incorporating cutting edge tools of sustainable building design.

The students’ work was inspired by the current city of San Diego planning process for the De Anza Amendment to the Mission Bay Master Plan.  The students were tasked with selecting a site within the city planning area. They were given input from city planners, staff from the neighboring UCSD Kendall-Frost Marsh, and San Diego Audubon Society staff associated with the ReWild habitat restoration feasibility study.

The San Diego City Council will be deciding on the De Anza plan in the next few years. We hope that the creativity of these young fourth-year architecture students will help decision-makers re-imagine the range of possibilities for increasing public access to Mission Bay and learning more about the preservation and role of this amazing ecosystem in the heart of San Diego.

The studio instructional team is Associate Professor and studio coordinator Daniela Deutsch, and Contributing Faculty includes Amin Espandiari, Denise Homme, Julio Medina, and Tom Mulica. Additionally, students received technical input from the industry.

NewSchool’s Integrated Design Studio consists of studio work and desk-crits, lectures by experts, technical workshops, as well as community meetings and charrettes. The studio also combines landscape design and holistic urban planning with integrated design solutions on the building level and addresses architecture and development, sustainable neighborhoods, and energy-efficient building design. The project’s aim is to develop viable strategies for city communities and revitalization, as well as communicate, via their technical systems, materiality, and programmatic optimization, that architecture is capable to address current social and ecological challenges and deliver innovative solutions.

Learn more about this exciting student and industry collaboration at a special selected projects presentation on June 24th via Microsoft Teams, including a Virtual Space Exhibits part of NewSchool’s 2020 GradShow event. (See below for event details.)

WHEN: Wednesday, June 24, 2020, 1:00 PM, via Microsoft Teams Link: CLICK HERE

“The confluence of four major architectural concentrations makes this project especially unique, including landscape design, architectural design, interior design, and construction engineering. Also, this year, we are welcoming a group of 19 interior design students from our own Interior Design Department,” said NewSchool Associate Professor and 4th year studio coordinator Daniela Deutsch. “While these topics often remain part of specialized programs or elective studios, our philosophy is that they must be treated as equally relevant and opened to discussion and research for each student of architecture in an accredited program before they finish their diploma. In our program, the goal is achieved by developing an integrated design approach in the framework of a mandatory Integrated Design Project.”

“A century ago, Mission Bay included 4000 acres of wetlands. Kendall-Frost Marsh is the last remaining 1% of this habitat Mission Bay. It is vital that we both understand and protect these wetlands.  The Wetlands Education and Research Center will do just that. We tasked the students with designing a space that will facilitate research on climate change and sea-level rise, educate students of all ages about how the natural environment can strengthen our climate resiliency, and give the public access to this unique wetland habitat. The NewSchool students have designed inventive buildings that reflect this mission and are glorious to behold. Any of these buildings the students have proposed would turn San Diego into a climate science destination – a place with forward-thinking science & education in an iconic building, a place where art and science meet.” – Heather Henter, Executive Director, UC Natural Reserve System.

NewSchool’s Head of Architecture Programs, Leonard Zegarski, explains: “The landscape architect Ian McHarg recognized the powerful connections humans have with nature in his book Design with Nature, published in 1969. His approach to environmental design was the guiding force for NewSchool students in developing regenerative design responses to the natural and man-made systems of Mission Bay. Their proposals recognize the bioregional forces at play by responding with passive and active strategies intended to preserve and sustain the health and well-being of this critical biotic community in the urbanized heart of San Diego.

“This project is the perfect example of an integrative, interdisciplinary and comprehensive learning experience where students have been exposed to a real life project of a high degree of complexity, and have been able to interface with the widest array of stakeholders and experts who helped them to frame the problem and produce their designs. This is the kind of education we strive for at NewSchool,” explains NewSchool Dean of the School of Design, Elena Pacenti, Ph.D.

“The WERC project was a great opportunity for students to work shoulder to shoulder with Academics, AEC Professionals, Politicians and Environmental Experts for the most important cause we have today, addressing the fragile and symbiotic relationship between the built and natural environment”, stated Brett Tullis, Principal with Sillman Wright Architects and Adjunct Professor at NewSchool of Architecture & Design.

“The Wetlands Education and Research Center project is a terrific collaborative endeavor. Professional experience is coming together with creative student enthusiasm on the most critical environmental concerns of our time. During the project evaluations, I wonder who is learning more. Ideas spark dialogue and vice versa in this energetic group. A dynamic balance of pragmatism and passion is seen in all the projects facilitated by a well-organized academic framework. I have no doubt that the resulting explorations will have an impact beyond the participation!” – Michael Hoffman is an Architect and Associate Vice President at the international design firm of CannonDesign. He has been a leader in design for over thirty years in San Diego, Los Angeles, and Chicago. Additionally, he has advised at NewSchool of Architecture & Design and Woodbury.

The complete collaborative team this year, consists of:

  • NewSchool of Architecture & Design students and faculty, including Daniela Deutsch, Amin Espandiari, Denise Homme, Julio Medina, and Tom Mulica.
  • UC San Diego Natural Reserve System
  • National Audubon Society
  • The City of San Diego Planning Department
  • KPFF Consulting Engineering
  • EB Energy & Water
  • ASLA – San Diego American Society of Landscape Architects


About NewSchool of Architecture & Design

Located in San Diego’s design district, NewSchool of Architecture & Design prepares students for career success in design fields with an emphasis on human-centered design, including interdisciplinary and global design skills, industry collaborations, and real-world projects. NewSchool offers undergraduate and graduate degrees in architecture and construction management as well as undergraduate degrees in product design, graphic design & interactive media, and interior architecture & design. NewSchool is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior College and University Commission. NewSchool’s Bachelor and Master of Architecture programs are accredited by the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB). NewSchool prepares students to successfully work in global and diverse organizations. For more information, visit

Jessica Nielsen
NewSchool of Architecture & Design

About UC San Diego Natural Reserve System

The UC San Diego Natural Reserve System is a network of 41 undeveloped and protected lands across the state that are set aside for research, education, and public service.  One of those reserves is the Kendall-Frost Marsh, which neighbors the planning area of the De Anza Amendment to the Mission Bay Master Plan. Marshes like Kendall-Frost provide untold benefit to the community by buffering shorelines from floods, purifying water, sequestering carbon, and providing habitat for both endangered and commercial species. For more information, please visit

Heather Henter
UC Natural Reserve System