Aside from the remodeling of on-campus housing, UC Santa Cruz is now one step closer to seeing another change in the scenery. Three finalists showcased their architectural concepts at the Dream Inn last Thursday for a chance to land the job of creating the Institute of the Arts and Sciences (IAS) at UCSC.

Out of the three finalists, Allied Works Architecture, Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects and the team of Patkau Architects and Fong & Chan Architects, one group will be chosen to build the IAS, which will begin construction in 2017.

The IAS will serve as an arena for individuals to not only observe exhibitions, but to create their own work. IAS will encourage collaboration between faculty and students by serving as a meeting ground for hands-on research. The 30,000-square-foot building will contain gallery rooms, conference rooms, auditoriums and smaller classroom-like settings where students can work closely with artistic materials.

“The Institution will allow students to work naturally with both the arts and the sciences, and it won’t feel like they are combining two separate things,” said UCSC Dean of the Arts David Yager. “Working with both the arts and sciences will allow students to visually come up with something new that will help them understand new ideas in a different way.”

The proposed location for the future IAS building is slightly south of the ARCenter, near the edge of UCSC’s arts buildings. It is proposed to cost close to $40 million, which will be provided by private grants.

IAS’s founding director, John Weber, believes the arts and sciences can work together within the new building, combining aspects of literary and visual arts with the sciences — including social sciences, humanities and engineering.

“The arts and sciences are infinite, just as our imaginations are,” Weber said. “The institution is an interdisciplinary operation. It wants to reflect the nature of the education Santa Cruz offers.”

The three finalists were selected from a pool of around 40 contenders competing for the job of constructing the institution. UCSC’s architect John Barnes will have the ultimate decision of choosing a winner by the end of the month. Yager said the decision will not be an easy one.

“I’m thrilled with the finalists. They’re all amazing architects and smart thinkers, and they understand that we care about the environment and the landscape,” Yager said.

Weber also expressed his excitement about the potential architects, and is eager to see how the architect will construct the institution to be able to create a space for research and collaboration.

“The institution will house the possibility of invention,” Weber said. “We’ll potentially be able to show anything, as long as we can make a rigorous case for it. It isn’t primarily there to be a student or faculty gallery, it is there to be a place where students and faculty can come up with brilliant creative projects demonstrating great potential to engage our community and work together to realize them.”

Graduate student Rachel Nelson, who worked with fellow graduate and undergraduate students on the planning committee for the architectural design, said the IAS will utilize both outdoor and indoor space to harmonize the building with the environment.

“The institution will bring people from across divisions together to think about big world problems,” Nelson said. “Whether it be environmental concerns or health concerns, these are problems that not just scientists need to take on, but everyone needs to take on. The building must reflect this, because it needs to be an innovative structure in accordance with the environment.”

Nelson acknowledges that students may have concerns regarding the construction’s impact on the natural setting, but she said the architectural team is very aware of this concern and is taking measures to be environmentally conscientious throughout the duration of the construction.

“It’s a very sensitive site, but John Barnes and everyone else on the committee is so insistent on protecting the natural habitat,” Nelson said. “They’re real advocates for the environment, and as students, we don’t really know how the university functions so we don’t realize how much they actually care. I was relieved to see how hard they are working to help the environment and not hurt it.”

Yager said the building will be environmentally sustainable and will be a place to conduct research and will even serve as a space for students to meet their friends for coffee.

“This building symbolizes everything we as a UCSC community care about, and it also shows how we think about research,” Yager said. “I’m really excited about it and all of its possibilities.”