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Grimshaw unveils a new arts complex at Santa Monica College

Sitting Pretty on Pico

Grimshaw unveils a new arts complex at Santa Monica College

The Los Angeles office of British architecture firm Grimshaw has revealed plans for a 21,000-square-foot arts complex at Santa Monica College (SMC), a junior college with an enrollment of over 30,000 students. The building, described as a “factory of creativity,” will take rise on what’s now a surface parking lot on the corner of 14th Street and Pico Boulevard at somewhat of a remove from the college’s main campus, which is bounded by 16th and 20th Streets.

As a press release notes, Grimshaw’s output of late in the United States, United Kingdom, and Australia has been heavy on college and university projects, with 57 percent of the firm’s completed buildings in 2019 falling under the science and learning banner. The arts center at SMC continues this trend and with a distinctly Californian twist:

“Celebrating the temperate weather of California, Grimshaw’s design is comprised of three distinct volumes that are linked through external, shaded areas providing ample opportunities for informal teaching and gathering in open-air weather protected courtyards. The external circulation and gathering areas drastically reduce the need for air conditioning, minimizing the overall energy use of the new complex and further supporting Grimshaw’s sustainability mission.”

Each of the three volumes is dedicated to a different purpose or “arts education pillar” as Grimshaw puts it: student studios, teaching spaces, and workshops. Each volume, separated from the neighboring single-family homes by a landscaped buffer, is encased by a perforated metal screen that will “act as a backdrop for the life of the building: the artwork.” Another key design feature is a spacious entrance plaza that will “generate opportunities for programming such as exhibitions, potential media screenings, or impromptu gatherings.”

“Working alongside the arts faculty of SMC to design a building that bolsters their visionary take on the importance of the arts in an evolving entrepreneurial landscape has been inspiring and energizing,” said Andrew Byrne, managing partner at Grimshaw’s L.A. studio, in a statement.

Construction on the new facility is slated to kick off during the first half of 2022, and be ready for the 2024 academic year. North Carolina-headquartered Little Diversified Architectural Consulting will serve as architect of record on the project.

Grimshaw maintains an active and growing presence in and around in L.A., taking on two high-profile, transportation-related projects in the city in recent years including the Metro Airport Connector project and the master plan for Union Station, both in partnership with Gruen Associates.