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ArtCenter Terri and Jerry Kohl Commons
(# 796)
Images Description Credits
project dates:
March 2017 – October 2018

project size:
4,200 s.f. interior renovation

project context:
In 2014 a prominent art and design school purchased 128,000 square foot, six story mid-rise building at the end of the historic 110 freeway. By its position in the city, and its sheer scale, the building functions as an urban entry that will soon become the gateway to the school’s south campus. The building represents a great urban opportunity for the school. This is particularly true for the ground floor and the way it relates to the public realm and the future campus simultaneously.  On the East side of level one there is a donor named gallery that is outward facing along the parkway. In conjunction with the design of this gallery we worked on a new student commons on the west side of the building which is the future campus side of the diagram. So, as the gallery reaches out into the context, the new student commons turns inward to serve the school. The former office building itself serves as the context that we are most radically transforming. Office space planning, 1980s finishes and fixtures, and the purely stratified building section were all challenged during the design process.

project program / scope:
The programmatic charge was to radically enlarge and transform a small existing café, and to create new vertical connections in the former stratified office building. At this new nexus we were asked to create a student commons including grab and go, café service, and a full-service kitchen. Additionally, we were asked to create an environment inside and outside where students could dine, hang out, and work. All tables, built-ins, and casework were designed by the architect, including the counter height ‘super table’ equipped with power and central to the commons space. The need for more vertical connectivity resulted in two new stairs; An open featured stair connecting level one and two and an enclosed stair down to the parking levels. Overall, the project creates vertical connectivity, an area for food, rest, work, conversation and culture.

This project is one in a series of projects designed and completed for this client over the last six years. The design process with the client is collaborative, and we have worked very hard to answer the high aesthetic standards of an institution dedicated to design excellence and innovation.  At the same time, we have worked on a language related to our core belief that ‘Architecture is the ferocious pursuit of presence to actualize absence’ and linked to our own interests in extending the work of the southern California Light and Space movement. In this case the circulation is actualized in the featured stair connection while the ‘super table’ and donor wall naturally form a throughput and track. The white of the donor wall folds down onto the floor to form a high gloss ‘carpet’ under a field of lines formed by acoustical baffles and linear lighting. The stair transitions to a soffit over the café service area while the back of it folds into a coffee counter. Digital displays, and a slot kitchen window reinforce the lines established by the larger scale relationships. White and sliver are manifest in spectrums of matte and gloss through the entire material palette. 


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