The Art Center College of Design has expanded into downtown Pasadena taking over a former supersonic wind tunnel facility, because that's exactly the type of building you would want to go to school in. Santa Monica-based Daly Genik Architects handled the renovations and transformed the facility into a naturally daylit and interactive space with a greater connection to the urban environment. The most fascinating part of the ACCD South Campus renovation includes the addition of a native grass planted green roof and a set of innovative sculptural skylights.
The supersonic wind tunnel facility was used by aircraft companies to test their designs in the mid-20th century until after the Cold War. Afterwards Dacor Corporation bought it for their kitchen appliance manufacturing facility, until they too no longer needed it. ACCD was hoping to expand their campus and wanted to connect with the city of Pasadena more, so they looked for a downtown location that would meet their needs. Originally the facility, while large enough for their needs, was quite dark and closed up. Daly Genik’s renovation opened the space up to both natural daylighting for better lighting conditions as well as to the surrounding city.
Windows were cut into the building’s thick concrete walls and three large holes were cut into the roof for skylights. The trick was though, they didn’t want to add any additional weight to the roof because that would require a significant seismic and structural update. Their solution was to create innovative and lightweight skylight sculptures that would also help the building reduce energy consumption. The skylights are made of multi-layered ETFE films stretched over structural frames placed on top of the skylight holes. These films form an inflatable pillow that expands or contracts depending on the amount of light or heat needed within the building.
The roof was also planted with native California grasses and serves as the building’s informal campus quad, where students and faculty can gather, study, rest or socialize. Further, the interior was adapted to meet the needs of the school and the exterior was sandblasted to get rid of years of paint and reveal the natural original building material. ACCD’s South Campus also achieved LEED certification and was one of the first building’s in Pasadena and one of the first renovated buildings in the US to do so.
Images ©Benny Chan/Fotoworks, Nic Lehoux and Grant Mudford courtesy of Daly Genik