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Community Foundation of Santa Cruz County, Aptos, United States

Monday 05 Sep 2011

Striving forward

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Award Entry

Leading a movement committed to positive social change, community engagement and sustainability 

By formal definition, a 'community foundation' is an independent, tax‐exempt, public charity created by and for the people in a local area.

Community foundations enable institutions and individuals with philanthropic interests to easily and effectively support the issues they care about immediately, or through endowments and planned gifts. Through visionary, diverse and inclusive philanthropy, community foundations have become catalysts for significant community change. Founded in 1982, the Community Foundation of Santa Cruz County promotes philanthropy by effectively connecting local donors and professional advisors to non-profit organisations and charitable investment opportunities in Santa Cruz County.

As a vital non‐profit resource, the Foundation strives to make greater Santa Cruz County a better place to live now and in the future. Faced with projected future growth, the Foundation required a permanent address to anchor its long‐term presence and dedication within the community.

Designed by Mark Cavagnero Associates and completed in 2010, the 10,000 sq ft facility embodies the organisation's commitment to community engagement and sustainability. The site is centrally located along the town's main commercial corridor surrounded predominantly by single‐storey businesses. The site slopes sharply from west to east while the north edge angles away, shaping its overall footprint as a rhombus.

These constraints heavily influenced the building's overall orientation and massing. The entire building backs into the natural slope of the site to create a single‐storey façade facing the commercial corridor to the west while the building's full two‐storey elevation is revealed on the east where the public parking lot and the main entry are located. The building's massing comprises two wings connected by a steel bridge, which houses the main entry and lobby. The lobby is transparent to an entry court to its east and a private courtyard to its west. These voids between the two wings enhance daylight penetration and provide relaxing outdoor spaces for occupants.

The north wing is a two‐storey parallelogram that aligns with the site's north edge, maximising allowable sq ft while respecting required setbacks from the street. Its smooth exposed concrete exterior provides a strong civic presence for the Foundation's administrative programmes within, including offices, conference rooms and a team workroom.

The south wing is a single‐storey, cedar‐clad box that provides a tactile and porous counterpoint to the north wing. It houses the Foundation's public programmes, including a resource library and a large community room for meetings and workshops. The roof of the south wing is an outdoor terrace designed for social events and gatherings, providing views of the tree‐lined vista to the east while shielding the traffic noise of the busy commercial street to the west.


The new 10,000-sq ft building for the Community Foundation of Santa Cruz County embodies the organisation's commitment to community engagement and sustainability. The site is centrally located along a busy, main commercial corridor surrounded predominantly by single-storey businesses. The building follows the slope of the land, which registers a 20-ft drop from the street level to the rear of the property. The strategic siting helps shield the building from busy street traffic noise particularly on the east side where the public parking lot and the main entry are located. The main entry is designed to welcome visitors while also accommodating outdoor gathering spaces for community and social events.

Through the generosity of local donors and philanthropists, the Foundation raised the necessary funds to acquire the land and develop a new home in the heart of the county that is flexible, spacious and built to endure far into the future. With its new home, the Foundation has the means and space for future growth while continuing to serve as a valuable community resource to both non-profit organisations and donors. The new building is a beacon for change, transformation and cooperative spirit in the community.


Attention to efficient building performance was another significant design driver, as evidenced by the building's LEED Gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. The building's orientation minimises its footprint on the site, and along with appropriately placed glazing and operable windows, maximises natural daylight, ventilation and exterior views throughout. The north wing's cast-in-place concrete contains fly ash and has a low maintenance, durable finish, while the cedar siding that defines the south wing is FSC-certified.

A mesh trellis along the north wing's south fa├žade shelters office spaces from direct sun exposure, minimising interior heat gain. The same trellis element envelops the main interior staircase to connect interior and exterior environments. Pervious paving, native landscaping and the use of healthy, recycled and local materials help to further minimise the building's environmental impact and resource footprint.

Key Facts

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Mark Cavagnero Associates

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