What was once a supersonic wind tunnel facility for aircraft companies has now become a stunning naturally daylit facility for the Art Center College of Design's South Campus. With a green roof featuring native California grasses and innovative sculptural skylights, ACCD's South Campus facility is an exciting new educational building that will help the school connect with downtown Pasadena. The renovation was designed by Santa Monica-based Daly Genik Architects, who sought to leave much of the original industrial context while opening the building up, improving the space to meet the program's needs, and reflecting the schools commitment to innovation.
The original facility helped aircraft companies test their designs until after the Cold War, when Dacor Corporation took it over to build high-end kitchen appliances. The arts college, which is based on the outskirts of Pasadena, felt that the area could serve as a great place to open up another campus and create a better connection with the city. Since it was a testing and manufacturing facility, the building had few windows and was closed off from the surrounding environment. One of Daly Genik’s main goals for the renovation was to open up a connection with the surrounding environment and provide optimum lighting conditions for the classrooms and studios.
Windows were cut into the thick street-front concrete walls to pull light into the classrooms and make the interior program visible from the street. Then three large cuts were made in the roof to serve as the bases for the sculptural skylights. A major concern for the architects was adding too much weight to the roof, so they worked with engineers to design a lightweight skylight system made from ETFE films stretched over structural frames. Three thin Teflon-coated polymers create a pillow between the frames, which inflate or deflate to adjust the amount of natural light and heat entering the building.
These skylights sit in a field of native grasses planted on top of the roof, creating a sculpture garden of sorts and a campus quad, which students and faculty enjoy. Much of the interior was adapted to meet the needs of the school, and the exterior was sand blasted to remove years of paint and reveal the original building material. ACCD’s South Campus was one of the first building’s in Pasadena to receive LEED certification, 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