The design of the UCLA Margo Leavin Graduate Art Studios brings together a community of students and faculty in a space that reflects the changing nature of artistic practice today. This innovative design creates a state-of-the-art MFA facility while embracing the original spirit and culture of the historic warehouse facility. The planning anticipates future needs and can evolve alongside new technologies and working methods. Conceived as a scaffold for experimentation and transformation, it is designed for enduring sustainability through programmatic longevity and adaptability for years to come.
Inspired by an urban plan, with an orchestrated mix of public and private spaces, the addition and adaptive reuse of the existing wallpaper factory creates a cohesive space unifying old and new structures. The 48,000 sq ft building is organized around a series of interwoven, neighborhood-inspired spaces. Private studios, informal gathering areas, shared production yards, and classrooms and critique space support the full range of activities for the department.
Johnston Marklee integrated feedback from engagement with students and faculty in initial design phases to ensure a new building that is highly functional, yet not overly deterministic. An early and consistent focus on material handling and infrastructure throughout contributes to its flexibility. A key aspect of the architect’s conceptual approach is an openness throughout that provides a casual, undetermined quality to the spaces: a blank canvas to allow artists the freedom to create. This open spirit is reflected in the materiality of the building, distinguished by a restraint in material selection and application; the upper zone of the interior walls are left unclad, revealing traces of decades of use recorded on the existing, exposed roof trusses and concrete walls of the warehouse.
The tilt-up concrete walls that define the new building’s envelope deliberately respond and connect to the historic, industrial vernacular of the Hayden Tract location in Culver City. Cast on site with custom molds, the pillowed pattern of the walls is animated by light and shadow throughout the day. The onsite work alleviated the cost and environmental impact associated with trucking materials to the site and reduced the erection of the perimeter walls to three days.
Designed for LEED Gold certification, sustainable strategies are fundamental to the project. Innovative building systems and elemental materials are distilled to achieve a holistic and efficient structure – prioritizing an integrated approach to design rather than one that tacks on layers of sustainable technology. Thick walls eliminate the need for waterproofing and insulation and minimize the construction footprint and waste. Covered, unconditioned work yards and gardens are enclosed by translucent polycarbonate panels that filter daylight to minimize heat gain and allow for passive ventilation. These three interstitial yards sustain airflow from interior to exterior and embrace the temperate Southern California climate, eliminating the reliance on mechanical cooling in two shared production spaces. One of these yards, a garden punctuated by three Acacia trees, serves as the entrance to the building and a commingling space for students, highlighting the importance of wellness to the UCLA Arts community.
Culver City, CA