California Institute of Technology

South Houses Rehabilitation

Pasadena, California

Commissioned to fully restore and modernize Caltech’s South Houses, our design for the residence halls incorporates contemporary features while preserving the buildings’ historic fabric. The Institute’s undergraduate houses consist of four buildings, constructed in 1931 from the plans of Gordon B. Kaufmann, famed designer of the Hoover Dam and the Los Angeles Times Building. Not unlike fraternities and sororities, House members and incoming Freshman practice the long held tradition of “choosing each other,” going through a form of “rush.” This history and sense of culture required a very tailored planning and design process that held true to conventions, yet introduced new amenities. To ensure that institutional memory would inform the design, we hosted a number of student gatherings as well as meetings with alumnae, administrative representatives, student affairs committees, and multiple other stakeholders. The result was heralded as a success by all involved.

Project Data

104,000 sf

Program & Highlights

280 beds
Central living rooms
Dining rooms
Gardens, terraces & courtyards


2007 Pasadena Historic Preservation Award


Structural Engineer: Nabih Youssef & Associates
Mechanical Engineer: IBE Consulting Engineers
Electrical Engineer: Kanwar & Associates
Civil Engineer: KPFF Consulting Engineers
Construction Management: JCM Group
Acoustics: Rothermel + Associates
LIGHTING: Kaplan Gehring McCarroll Architectural Lighting
Landscape Architect: Pamela Burton & Company
Photographer: Fred Licht

“The miracle of the restored South Houses is that this cherished way of life has not only been preserved, it has been greatly enhanced. Modernized and better designed public and private spaces allow better collaboration, research, and social interaction. . . .”
— Thomas N. Mannon, Asssistant Vice President for Student Affairs, California Institute of Technology

Dabney House courtyard in 1941
Dabney House prior to rehabilitation efforts
Dabney House after rehabilitation