Southwest of San Jose, California’s city center and just down the road from Apple HQ in Cupertino is West Valley College, a 140-acre public community college with over 8,000 students in San Jose’s Saratoga district. This September, a new visual arts building at West Valley College’s Cilker School of Art and Design opened to students designed by San Francisco firm Mark Cavagnero Associates. The 20,000-square-foot building beacons the outdoors inside with generous glazed curtainwalls and exterior circulation shared by louvered canopies. The Santa Rosa firm TLCD Architecture served as the executive architect.
At the new visual arts building, there are five sun-lit studios situated around a central courtyard anchored by an existing oak tree. A U-shaped exterior circulation path connects the five studios, taking advantage of the Bay Area’s temperate climate. Mark Cavagnero Associates note that the exterior courtyard serves the double function of both circulation and promoting interdisciplinary exchange between faculty and students. Above the studios, sawtooth apertures bring natural lit into the deep spaces.
“It has been an honor to work with West Valley College to design and realize this vibrant new building, which will help shape the education of future generations of art students,” said Mark Cavagnero. “Central to our vision was creating highly functional spaces where students can freely explore their creativity while being in close conversation with their natural environment.”
The building site is heavily sloped, the architects continued. This presented both unique challenges and opportunities to thread the building’s interior and exterior. Mark Cavagnero Associates created a double-height gallery space and an adaptable studio which could function effectively as an extension of the gallery, a public meeting room, or a collaborative project space. The architects further noted that the integrated layout of the metal/woodworking shop and kiln/foundry area further supports the studio’s experimental curriculum.
“The new Visual Arts Building personifies West Valley College’s commitment to the arts,” said Shannon Price, dean of the Cilker School of Art and Design. “It is a light-filled space where the lines between inside and outside merge, offering students an unparalleled sanctuary to absorb their education and express their creaivity. I have visited public and private art schools all over the world and these facilities rival them all.”
Moving forward, Mark Cavagnero Associates is designing at West Valley College a new Learning Resource Center and Library with integrated media and academic support functions across the street from the Cilker School of Art and Design. The new Learning Resource Center and Library provides an addition to an existing 1972 library building and will help form a new quad area for the campus.