Architects: Steinberg Architects
Location: San Jose, California, USA
Team: Ernie Yamane, AIA – Principal in Charge, Dennis Cook, AIA – Project Manager, Brigitte Williams, AIA– Designer, Lisa Welty-O’Hare- Interior Design, Ron Saiki, AIA, Christopher Lewis, Paul Bae, In-HyrungSeo, DedeImpink, AIA – Specifications
Photographs: Tim Griffith
Evergreen Valley College sits at the base of a range of sunburned hills in south San Jose. The park-like character of the campus stands in stark contrast to the golden hills in the near distance. Campus buildings are nestled into the lush vegetation along a main axis, which runs northeast to southwest. At the northeast entry, a new library building dominates the entrance into the academic precinct, succinctly announcing its importance in scale and architectural inflection to the academic community.
At the southwest end, the new visual and performing arts center forms a gateway of a different character. Separated into two buildings, a literal passage and gate welcome visitors into the heart of the campus and introduce a performing arts wing to the right, and a second visual arts wing to the left. The two buildings are arranged at acute angles to each other to create a moment of tension, as if reaching out to touch each other across the gap. Each building’s main lobby is located at this passage, establishing a visual and physical dialogue between the two.
The performing arts wing houses a 400-seat theater, a scene shop, dance studio, costume studio, music practice rooms and classrooms, and faculty offices. The distinct music and theater wings are joined together at an angle as if suspended in movement and dance. The light-flooded theater lobby is clad in zinc and stands out in the architectural composition to announce its dual role as an instructional and civic building. All instructional spaces enjoy access to natural light. Interior courtyards allow for a fluid relationship of interior and exterior, offering a glimpse of the breathtaking locale.
A simple and durable palette of materials, punctuated by bright color accents and super graphics in the theater lobby and the main corridor, supports the building’s instructional purpose: to provide a worthy backdrop for the creative energy and aspirations of its users. Similarly, the visual arts wing is entered through a light-filled lobby, where large- and small-scale student art is exhibited.
A formal art gallery is located adjacent to the lobby. In addition, this building houses classrooms for painting, 2D design, digital photo design, digital media, metal works, ceramics, and general lecture. The individual studios are outfitted with state-of-the-art equipment, allowing instructors to continue and expand courses highly favored by students and the community, alike.
The building is situated on a gently sloping site. Cascading steps lead up to the entrances from the main vehicular drop-off, giving way to a landscape of permeable and paved walking paths that lead to the parking lot. Shade trees and seating opportunities are interspersed and help define areas for congregation.
A subtle play on the building’s geometry is continued in the landscape, alluding to the role of the arts in challenging the conventional. The scale of the building is carefully tuned to the landscape, and the building is an extension of it. Bright white stucco walls, zinc accents, and glazed lobbies at the heart of the composition form a quiet and fresh new face at the main entry to the campus.
The building design is a result of careful consideration of the total cost of ownership, a concept which takes into account building maintenance cost, operating cost, and labor cost. As a result, a high level of flexibility was built into most program areas, allowing for future addition of technical features or different future space utilization.