A former 50,000-square-foot (4,600-square-meter) publishing-company office and warehouse was reconfigured into lab space for biomedical research. The nonprofit Terasaki Institute for Biomedical Innovation turned to CO Architects to renovate an existing building into a modern research laboratory facility for conducting cutting-edge advances in micro- and nanotechnologies with applications in diagnostics, therapeutic drug delivery, and regenerative medicine. Outgrowing its existing space, Terasaki Institute acquired an additional building in suburban Los Angeles to house nearly 100 faculty members and scientists.

Project Name: Terasaki Institute for Biomedical Innovation
Studio Name: CO Architects
Photo Credit: Kim Rodgers

Terasaki Institute for Biomedical Innovation by CO Architects - Sheet4
©Kim Rodgers

Health & Fitness History

Built in 1971, the two-story, wood-framed commercial building comprises glulam beams and wood trusses. In the late 1980s it was converted into the headquarters of Weider Health and Fitness, where magazines such as Shape and Muscle & Fitness were published under the direction of seven-time Mr. Olympia and rising action star Arnold Schwarzenneger. CO Architects preserved the historic elements of the structure and transformed the previous closed-off offices into an open environment that includes laboratories, tissue culture rooms, open workplaces, and a two-story flexible-use central atrium.

The archived building plans contained many inaccuracies, causing the architecture team to expend extra effort on the design details and entitlements. When non-structural walls were removed, the wood joints and steel substructures had so much character that CO Architects decided to integrate these features into the final design. After demolition, the design team decided to do a 3D scan of the building to create a digital twin. This allowed the architects to model and run cost analyses of cost-effective ways to retain some existing elements while upgrading much of the building with enduring materials and better performance. New features include underground plumbing to increase usable interior space, adding a mechanical well and structural vibration-damping, and designing a new curtain wall and roofing.

Terasaki Institute for Biomedical Innovation by CO Architects - Sheet6
©Kim Rodgers

Adaptive Reuse

Homage to the building’s history includes retaining the street-facing façade’s Greek-style plaster reliefs of bodybuilders. On the interior, CO Architects’ goal was to modernize the building with state-of-the-art office and laboratory environments. The lobby ceiling presents this intent—the now-exposed original wood beams are complemented with wood slats the have embedded LED fixtures are introduced on the ceiling in the lobby. Extending the visual relationship, the wood motif appears on the reception desk and frames the large video wall in the interior’s signature space, a double-height atrium. Holdover skylights illuminate this common area, where the focal point is a 16’x9’ LED display wall. Designed for flexibility, the atrium can function as a collaborative lounge and meeting area, a staff social area, and can host public events and lectures. Terasaki Institute’s history and values are conveyed visually with a central display case exhibiting research artifacts and a custom circuit pattern on glass walls.

Former wood-paneled executive offices were re-apportioned into conference and meeting rooms. Glazed walls provide glimpses of Terasaki’s lab experiments from adjacent open work areas. These spaces feature flexible workstations, high tables, and soft lounge seating.

As lab-design specialists, CO Architects achieved a programmatic goal with state-of-the-art laboratories. Features include infrastructure and 116 mobile benches that readily adapt to a variety of research: tissue culture, imaging, histology rooms, and more. The labs have capacity for more benches if needed in the future.

Terasaki Institute for Biomedical Innovation by CO Architects - Sheet8
©Kim Rodgers

Biomedical research is focused on improving quality of life, and this building was designed to help scientists accelerate innovation. The open, light-filled design sets the stage for Terasaki Institute’s scientific advancements while honoring the building’s history.

Associates:  General Contractor: MATT Construction
MEP Engineer: P2S Inc
Structural/Civic Engineer: KPFF Consulting Engineers


Rethinking The Future (RTF) is a Global Platform for Architecture and Design. RTF through more than 100 countries around the world provides an interactive platform of highest standard acknowledging the projects among creative and influential industry professionals.