California College of Arts Campus to Expand

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Studio Gang’s initial sketch of the California College of the Arts’ expanded campus.
Image: Courtesy of Studio Gang
Preliminary model of Studio Gang’s design for a modified California College of the Arts.
Photo: Courtesy of Courtesy of Studio Gang

In January, the California College of the Arts submitted a revised Institutional Master Plan to the Planning Commission under which its Oakland and San Francisco properties would be consolidated into a unified campus located in Showplace Square, on Eighth Street. According to Gina Simi, Planning Department communications manager, the Plan’s environmental review, Transportation Impact Study and Large Project Authorization are being evaluated, as are proposals associated with the streetscape and specific buildings. Planning Commission meetings for individual projects within the IMP haven’t yet been scheduled.

“Locating CCA entirely in San Francisco will give the school better access to some of the world’s most creative teaching talent, as well as an increased ability to forge connections with Bay Area corporations, arts, and cultural institutions, nonprofits, and other world-class educational entities,” the Plan states. “It will also provide a remarkable link to the global community, and a place-based cultural identity that stands out in the competitive global and domestic marketplace.”

The Master Plan has several components, each of which is subject to Planning review.  A primary piece of campus expansion is development of a new academic building on a vacant lot at 1140 Seventh Street. The structure, designed by architectural firm, Studio Gang, would provide about 90,000 square feet of indoor and 65,000 square feet of outdoor space. The planning process for the project is currently in between the schematic design and the design development phases. If approved, construction would begin in June 2019, with completion scheduled for September 2021.

“Conceived as a creative ecosystem that strengthens relationships between people, ideas, and practices, the design extends CCA’s main academic building on the existing San Francisco campus into a new campus yard framed by a layered “double ground” of art-making facilities and landscapes,” stated a project description by Studio Gang. “The ground plane serves as a hub of indoor-outdoor maker spaces supporting more physically intensive practices. Its flexible plan makes the different programs more visible to one another, promoting interdisciplinary interactions and providing adaptability as new needs, uses, and technologies develop. Above, a second “ground” offers additional art-making spaces, outdoor classrooms, and informal social spaces; all visually and physically connected to the spaces below by a robust terraced landscape.”

Under the Plan, a five-story student dormitory would be constructed at 188 Hooper Street that’ll provide 530 beds, 8,500 square feet of publicly accessible ground floor dining services, 12,560 square feet of common spaces and 10,980 square feet of outdoor open space. If approved this summer, students will start moving in by fall of 2020. It’s designed by Stanley Saitowitz | Natoma Architects Inc.

A student housing project designed by Leddy Maytum Stacy Architects, located at 75 Arkansas Street, is currently under construction, with a goal of accommodating more than 200 scholars by this fall. Retail space in the Arkansas Street building will be delivered sometime in the future.

About 146,000 square feet of an existing instructional building, at 1111 Eighth Street, will be renovated, also by Studio Gang, to achieve carbon-neutral and zero water waste goals. Sustainability consultants, Rocky Mountain Institute and Atelier Ten, will be involved in water and energy conservation elements, and recommend environmentally safe art materials and practices. Public realm improvements will include additional bicycle parking, street trees and street furniture, among other amenities.

According to David Meckel, CCA director of research and planning, community activists have been enthusiastic about the housing projects, as they’ll provide units for students who would otherwise be competing for shelter in the general market. Following several presentations to neighbors and civic groups about 75 Arkansas Street, CCA met with the Potrero Boosters Development Committee; a follow-up meeting is likely to happen soon to discuss 188 Hooper Street. Meckel said that in January there was a community open house focusing on the Hooper residences, where positive feedback on the design was given. Similar gatherings will be scheduled regarding the new academic building once the preliminary design stage is complete.

“We’ve been very collaborative with neighbors,” Meckel said. “We know we have to be very active in this process and talk to many neighbors and groups. We’ll continue to do that all the way through.”

According to Meckel, CCA administration is aware of the transformation occurring in and around Dogpatch, Potrero Hill, and Showplace Square, with a growing population and concomitant need for safer streets and sidewalks. He expects that the campus will evolve to be more porous in relation to the community, with an inviting, street-friendly feel. However, he stressed that openness has to be balanced with the need to keep the campus environment safe and secure for students; it’s likely that neighborhood connections will be made over time.

Last summer, an intensive architecture design studio enabled 18 CCA students to learn in a laboratory-like environment for three weeks, led by Studio Gang founder Jeanne Gang and architect Steve Wiesenthal. Scholars teamed in small groups to create a conceptual design for a library as part of the new academic building. Although there’s no commitment by Studio Gang to incorporate aspects of the students’ work, the process prompted in-depth conversations regarding the role that the library plays in the institution, and the part the institution plays in the neighborhood.

“One theme was thinking about the role of the library and the broader constituency of users beyond just students and faculty,” said Christopher Roach, adjunct professor of architecture, CCA. “It was proposed that the library could have an outside street entrance where researchers from other institutions, members of organizations and neighbors could use the library as a resource and allow for rich mixing. The current library is really only for CCA students and faculty or visiting faculty.”

“It’s rare for students of architecture to be able to offer input about the building of their school,” said Cesar Lopez, a CCA lecturer and graduate. “Few architecture schools are being built right now. It’s a unique opportunity for students to influence the trajectory of the school building.”

According to Emily Viemeister, CCA senior communications manager, the collaborative posture has extended beyond the classroom to include faculty, staff, students, alumni and trustees through a series of workshops and presentations intended to help establish an overall vision, develop a framework for new architecture and modifications to existing buildings, and determine relationships with the campus and City.