California College of Arts San Francisco Campus

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Architect Skidmore Owings and Merrill (SOM), with renovation and conversion by LMS Architects
Location San Francisco, California
Date 1951, renovated and converted 1997 to 1998
Building Type industrial maintenance facility converted to art school, art college
 Construction System long-span concrete with steel bracing for seismic upgrade
 Sustainability daylighting, solar heating with rooftop collectors, cooling by natural ventilation, encapsulation of existing toxics in concrete slab. - GEEB
Climate mild temperate
Context urban, light industrial
Style Environmental Modern
Notes An industrial mantenance facility elegantly converted to arts college.

Exterior, sidewalk view at main entry
Photos © Kevin Matthews

Exterior, looking in through entry court

Interior overview looking along central circulation axis of main space

Interior, display area for student work

Interior, including primary structural system

Looking out through entry courtyard

Interior studio space with overhead and perimeter daylighting

Rooftop solor collector for building heat

Looking in to entry courtyard

Central circulation and display space

Central circulation and display space

Display of student work

Looking out through preserved industrial sash to adjacent bus maintenace facility

Stairway to mezzanine studios with skylight daylighting

Creative atmosphere in administrative office area

Clerestory lighting for mezzanine studio

Interior Panorama, from Mezzanine Level
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Lower Level Floor Plan

Upper Level Floor Plan

Renderings of the GEEB project 3D model:
Entry courtyard, draft
Eye-level overview, draft
Facade view, draft
Aerial overview, draft
3D Model
3D Computer Model (DesignWorkshop format)
— Spatial Model —
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Discussion California College of Arts San Francisco Campus Commentary

The California College of Arts and Crafts/Montgomery Campus renovated a mid-century Greyhound Bus Lines repair shed into what is now the cornerstone of its campus near the thriving South of Market district in San Francisco. The building, originally designed by the architecture firm Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, is teeming with glass and steel, commanding a striking presence. San Francisco firm Leddy Maytum Stacy was charged with transforming the building into a multi-use space for the college, and succeeded in not only preserving the architectural integrity of the original structure, but also creating a space that performs far more efficiently than its original designers would have imagined. The new building is as flexible and intimate as it is striking, among the most handsome sustainable buildings to emerge in this era.

— Brian Libby, ArchitectureWeek

"It's an eloquent testament to the importance of reusing materials. The architect and owner were able to recognize what's special and good about this building and create a final result that is more wonderful than what they started with."

"The design team was faced with a tough problem. To condition it using standard practice would have cost more than any school could afford. Its creative use of an energy efficient radiant heating system is an appropriate solution, and the building takes advantage of its environment through the use of natural ventilation. Enhancing natural light while installing baffles to improve the quality of light without destroying the old facade is a very noble effort."

"The project is simply captivating and demonstrates a lot of restraint. The design team created a building inside a building for the classrooms where there was need for them, isolating the spaces that needed finer conditioning. The first conceptual decisions are really what made this building."

— 2000 Savings by Design Awards Jury

Creator's Words

"A lot of the historic meaning and the actual fabric of the building were saved through a few simple moves, which were also the most cost-effective ones. Everything was cross-checked several times, and it added up to something that was greater than the sum of its parts. Yes, the view of downtown was saved, but not at the sacrifice of blocking the wall of programs. Yes, the glass wall was saved, but it was saved by something sustainable that also saved some money in the long run. And yes, it's as flexible as it could ever be.

"It's an art and architecture school, so the client realized the aesthetic beauty of the place. They wanted to leave it as much intact as they could, even though it was a historically listed structure. So really the big questions became, "Is it seismically safe?" "How the heck are we going to heat this with so much glass?" and "How can we use it to create community for the students?"

"The program is interdisciplinary, so they wanted it to be very flexible and evolve, because they rewrite their course schedule every semester. It just became a building within the building. Then we had to create a seismic upgrade to complement the building, rather than get in the way. And then to heat it, California Title 24 tells you that you have to upgrade the skin of your building to make it efficient to a certain level. With the glass, there was no way to heat that. We would have had to replace the entire skin, and everyone was in an uproar about that. But we realized that if we provided solar heating, it would make us exempt from Title 24, according to California regulations. So basically the cost of the solar system was the cost of replacing the glazing. We were able to weigh that and say, 'Let's go for the solar.'

"We're lucky to the glass is mostly north facing. Most of the glare, if any, comes through the skylights. We handle that through sun shading on the skylights. During the summer they do get some glare through the entry court, but that is screened mostly by program elements. There's a cafe there and an art gallery, and they screen most of the western light. They have painters along the glass who love the light. They have mostly graphic designers or architects in the open studios, and they like the light. There are the shop-program functions in the enclosed spaces of the studios, and those spaces tend to not want light, but they're enclosed, so it doesn't matter for them either. So it's just a matter of what program should go where."
— Tom Monahan of LMS Architects, interviewed by Brian Libby for ArchitectureWeek, 2003


Savings by Design Award, 2000

Architecture + Energy Award, Portland, Oregon AIA, 2001

Address: 450 Irwin Street, San Francisco, California

Design Team

Renovation and Conversion Architect  LMS Architects
Original Architect Skidmore Owings and Merrill
Structural Engineer Ove Arup
Mechanical Engineer Ove Arup

Resources Sources on California College of Arts San Francisco Campus

"Industrial Facility Turns to the Arts", by ArchitectureWeek, ArchitectureWeek No. 8, 2000.0705, pD1.1.

Search the RIBA architecture library catalog for more references on California College of Arts San Francisco Campus

Web Resources Links on California College of Arts San Francisco Campus

Savings by Design Award 2000Savings by Design web site

CCA : California College of the ArtsThe school's own web site

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We appreciate your  suggestions  for links about California College of Arts San Francisco Campus.

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