Woodbury University’s new studio building, designed by Los Angeles-based Rios Clementi Hale Studios, completes the school’s architecture facilities. Adding a publicly prominent new structure to the Burbank campus, the architects created a two-story building that comprises studio and critique space for approximately 200 students, as well as all-school exhibition space.
“We wanted to make a space the students could learn from,” says Jennifer Charles, project architect for Rios Clementi Hale Studios.
As an anchor for Woodbury’s architecture program, the studio building complements the existing five separate one-story buildings on the southeast corner of the 22-acre campus. Rios Clementi Hale Studios designed the space with an open, flexible floor plan to accommodate future changes in the architecture school, teaching philosophies, or administrative needs.
“Our goal was to create a timeless, integrated campus building for the Woodbury School of Architecture,” says Mark Rios, FAIA, FASLA, founding principal of the multi-disciplinary architecture, design, landscape, and planning firm. “This required approaching the building as two distinct, but associated, masses: the architectural studies space and the multi-purpose, all-school space.”
The new building is part of a major $27-million construction project being led by Swinerton Builders that includes a business complex with auditorium, residence hall, and a surface parking lot for more than 300 cars, in addition to the architecture studio. Famed architectural photographer Julius Shulman contributed substantially to the building fund.
Woodbury has experienced significant growth during the past seven years, with enrollment increasing by 60 percent. “It’s the responsibility of the university to provide facilities for the faculty to execute the craft of teaching,” says Kenneth R. Nielsen, Ed.D., president of Woodbury University. “This student-driven expansion was essential to ensure the continued growth and future success of the university—one of Southern California’s first institutions of higher education and one that is on an upward trajectory.”
As the southernmost building on campus nearest to bustling Glenoaks Boulevard, the new studio is the most visible building on the Woodbury perimeter and acts as a welcoming beacon. The 19,000-square-foot structure houses two floors of studio and critique space in an open arrangement. Each floor comprises 5,500 square feet of studio space and 1,500 square feet of critique space. Students are afforded approximately 35 square feet each of personal work space. Flexible workstations were custom designed to allow each student to build his or her own desk. Rios Clementi Hale Studios used pre-cut materials for each station, including desk surface, computer locker, tack board/divider, and layout space.
“We’re very space-constricted,” says Norman Millar, AIA, chair of the School of Architecture at Woodbury University. “The new building makes it possible to bring all of our students together in one place. That is an important advantage because there’s an enormous amount of learning from peers that goes on.”
A 1,700-square-foot, double-height multi-purpose “main space” provides additional critique space and becomes an area for all-school lectures and exhibitions. The main space exhibits the building’s relationship between its exterior and interior. The large curved wall follows the curve of the exterior, while concrete block is spied both inside and outside. A high glass lantern features a pattern of indigenous olive leaves and casts interior patterns from sunlight during the day, while emitting an outward glow at night. The pattern, as well as a few of the original olive trees, pays homage to the olive orchard that previously inhabited the area. When open, the large articulating hangar door to the north expands the main space to the outdoors and invites the rest of the campus inside the all-school gathering place.
Inside the building, exposed interior construction and mechanical systems serve as teaching tools for tomorrow’s architects, as do the use of sustainable interior materials, such as recycled glass tile, pressed paper and resin surfaces, and recycled cotton insulation.
The exterior masonry was kept as exposed as possible. With the use of inherently colored concrete block, the architects avoided using paint. In order to prevent the structure from appearing too monolithic, the architects played with different pattern scaling and colors with the concrete block. To differentiate the upper two-thirds from the lower portion of the building, two separate colors of concrete were used, and many blocks were set at alternating angles to create various textural patterns and shadows across the façade.
“The patterns in the concrete bring the 30-foot-high surface down to an inviting scale,” says Frank Clementi, AIA, AIGA, principal. “At the edge of the campus, the concrete block acts as the welcoming wall, holding up the school.”
Joining Mark Rios, Frank Clementi, and Jennifer Charles on the project team from Rios Clementi Hale Studios are Robert G. Hale, FAIA, principal; Naseema Asif, design team; Garth Ramsey, design team; and Chiaki Kanda, design team.
In addition to Rios Clementi Hale Studios, the other members of the design and construction team are Swinerton Builders, design/build contractor; Exceleration Project Management, project management; Charles Tan & Associates, structural engineer; Newson Brown Acoustics, acoustical consultant; PlanNet Consulting, AV consultant; Unison Electric, electrical systems; Western Allied Corporation, mechanical systems; Pan-Pacific, plumbing engineer; KPFF, civil engineer; Mark Jacksen Illumination, lighting design; Valley Crest, landscape architect; Arup Fire, code consultant; Independent Roofing Consultants, waterproofing; and Advance Fire Protection, fire sprinklers.