Hollywood gains a new star

Monday 03 Mar 2014

Emerson College Los Angeles by Thom Mayne of Morphosis to open this month

Emerson College in Boston, Massachusetts is renowned for its communications and arts programs. It has an impressive list of supportive alumni including: Bobbi Brown, founder of Bobbi Brown Cosmetics; Bonnie Comley, the producer of Warhorse and the Merchant of Venice on Broadway; the actor Dennis Leary; and Max Mutchnick, the co-creator of the Emmy Award-winning sitcom Will and Grace. 

With its deep connections to the entertainment industry, Emerson started offering courses in Burbank California in rented space 27 years ago. In March, the College will open a bold new building, a self-contained urban campus designed by Thom Mayne of Morphosis, on the famed Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood, California.

The building is a good fit for Emerson - an innovative structure to house its innovative programs. The 10-storey aluminum-clad building is comprised of two components; two vertical residential towers linked by a heliport that create and frame a void below into which is inserted a sculptural structure that houses classrooms and administrative space. Surrounding the sculpted form are a series of public spaces and multileveled terraces intended to spark cross disciplinary collaboration, impromptu social gatherings and host performances.  

For the building’s design Mayne looked at the interiority of Hollywood film studios where typically vanilla box structures house flexible, fantastical spaces within. This building is the antithesis of that diagram with a facade that is as dynamic and provocative as the programs it houses.  

The $85m, 120,000 square foot facility, which can house up to 217 students, features a host of innovative amenities that will provide students with the opportunity to pursue their creativity. Among these features are wired classrooms, an open air screening and live performance space, a Dolby Surround 7.1 audio post-production suite, a 4k screening room, computer labs, mixing suites and a planned green screen motion capture stage. 

In addition to ramping up its offerings to students, Emerson Los Angeles (ELA) will also offer workshops and programs to the community. “We intend to be fully engaged with the City of Los Angeles and specifically the Hollywood community. Community service will be a big part of the new ELA,” said Founding Director Kevin Bright.

Anticipating LEED Gold certification, the building has a dynamic sun shading system that adapts to changing weather conditions to maintain optimal indoor temperature and natural light levels. Heating and cooling of the building is further optimized though an innovative passive valence system developed by Buro Happold.  

Additional sustainable elements include recycled and renewable materials, low flow plumbing fixtures and a high performance glass curtain wall to minimize heat gain. Wrapping the building’s northwest corner is a living green wall that underscores the towers’ actively changing exterior skin. 

"The building is designed to expand the interactive, social aspects of education,” said Thom Mayne. “We focused on creating with the broader community in mind - both in terms of public space and sustainable design,” said Mayne. ELA opens in March. 

Sharon McHugh
US Correspondent

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