University of California Irvine Contemporary Arts Center / Ehrlich Architects

  • 02 Aug 2012
  • Educational Selected Works
© Lawrence Anderson

Architects: Ehrlich Architects
Location: Irvine, CA,
Landscape Architects: LRM Landscape Architecture
Project Area: 55,000 sq ft
Photographs: Lawrence Anderson

The winning entry in a design-build competition, this 55,000 square foot college Contemporary Arts Building is finely attuned to its Southern California climate and community context. The high-performance project, which is pending LEEDTM Gold certification, incorporates innovative strategies for energy-efficiency that become bold design ideas. Inserted into an existing urban arts campus, the five-story structure includes a large experimental black box theater and an art gallery, both double-height spaces, surrounded by multiple studios, classrooms and offices. Reinforcing the interdisciplinary approach of the School of the Arts, the architecture stimulates interaction with the surrounding Arts Village with multiple terraces, landscaped courtyards, balconies and a colonnade. A new entrance court plaza has been planted with shade trees and fitted with wooden benches and integrated lighting to make it an inviting public gathering space.

© Lawrence Anderson

Located four miles from the ocean, the complex’s benign marine climate contributed to the main design idea. The theater and gallery, the two large spaces requiring highly-mediated environmental control and lighting, are placed at the core of the building. Wrapped around them are smaller, naturally-ventilated rooms and corridors that make up most of the building’s exterior. Because these perimeter spaces specifically have no air-conditioning, users are educated in controlling temperature with operable windows and become participants in the green agenda. The top floor consists entirely of artists’ studios, also naturally ventilated, which open onto outdoor terraces that double as extended work areas. The western façade has metal sunscreens and breezy exterior corridors with windows opening to offices. In the early phases of design wind-tunnel tests were conducted that resulted in the incorporation of air ducts that draw hot air through the roof, providing additional cross-ventilation and cooling.

© Lawrence Anderson

Built into a sloping site, the Arts Building is clad in brick veneer, concrete masonry and glass, which reference the materials that make up much of the surrounding campus. In contrast to the sun-control strategies of the west façade, the north façade is a glazed wall. The lobby’s full-height mullion-less glass allows unobstructed views into the building, while above it floats a composition of clear, frosted and spandrel glass. The entrance plaza pavers are continued into the lobby, reinforcing the indoor-outdoor emphasis.


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Cite: "University of California Irvine Contemporary Arts Center / Ehrlich Architects" 02 Aug 2012. ArchDaily. Accessed 30 May 2015. <>