The University of Santa Monica required a complete remodel to its facility consisting of a new facade, two new large seminar rooms for 80 and 200 students and a major reconfiguration of the interior in order to provide better circulation. The building is home to an institution offering graduate programs in Spiritual Psychology which are presented in large group format. The school provides a psychological environment within which to enhance the experience of Self illumination. The design reflects the nature of spiritual learning in its symbolic evocation of Light descending, in the way it embraces the creative tension that moves one to learn and grow, and in the way it reflects the qualities of balance, peace, and harmony. Furthermore, the solution strives for a clear expression of each part, such that each part is a whole unto itself, yet simultaneously a part of the greater Whole.
A floating plane of limestone colored stucco enfolds the existing facade, unifying the existing disparities and lack of cohesion. On top of this stucco plane, a steel and glass canopy wraps the building and transforms itself into a protective awning over the entry. This canopy also functions as a billboard, both identifying the University and distinguishing it from its commercial neighbors. Illuminated translucent planes make their way to the interior where translucent panels are used as artificial or natural light diffusers.
Inside, a new, expanded lobby becomes the central hub of circulation. Light, the dominant theme, descends into the building's center directly over the main stair. A frosted, curved, acrylic sheet suspended above this stair, is both light fixture and sculpture. The experience of ascending and descending is made ceremonial.
In the two large seminar rooms, illumination that comes with self-knowledge, is given symbolic expression in ceilings that open to the sky. These rooms convey both a sense of expansion and intimacy, creating a serene environment supportive of the inner work of upliftment. The larger seminar room focuses on a circular skylight that expands into an asymmetrical cone which intersects a curved wood ceiling. Suspended within this cone, a large, sculptural, translucent panel is used as a light diffuser. A sky lit vault also dominates the smaller seminar room, adding height and light to the room. Angled acoustic panels turn up into this vault as translucent, curved, light diffusers add a delicate counterpoint to the opaque, angular planes.
Santa Monica, CA
Los Angeles AIA Interior Architecture Honor Award