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Emerson College Los Angeles Center Thom Mayne, Morphosis Designed 2008-2010. Completed 2014 for Spring Semester

Boston based Emerson College wanted a West Coast Campus for their TV and Film internship program that would provide a unique academic experience in a building that would perpetuate the media arts.

“The building is designed to expand the interactive, social aspect of education� Thom Mayne


Since students would be living and working

Aesthetically and visually they were also

across the country during their internships

inspired by the Grande Arche de la

Morphosis had to compact an entire

Defense, which was designed by Johanna

campus into one building and focus

Otto von Spreckelsen in 1989. The visual



reference to the Grande Arche is one of

horizontally. The limited space with the

distinction and prestige as Morphosis

desire of many functions led them to turn to

wanted to create a unique structure to

their recently completed Cooper Union

stand out in the skyline and the surrounding

(2009), a stacked vertical piazza with a

studio district, which is mostly low-rise.




focus on social interaction, for inspiration.

March 2009 Model Since the beginning of the design process the design was organized around the concept of a large central cube framed by a proscenium. This model shows a grated faรงade for the apartment complex, which The exterior box acts as a frame, resembles a studio set, and references a Roman proscenium, which fittingly relates to the function of the building for the study of communication and arts.

frames the deconstructed rectangle with a glass faรงade facing the street. The concept behind the horseshoe-shaped apartment structure, which deeply resembles the Grande Arche de la Defense, was to separate






functions of the center, complete with one stairway to the apartments and another to the shared academic space.


April 2009 Model This model shows the apartment towers beginning on the second floor and with a simpler façade. The apartments were brought down the second level to create a more distinctive visual border and appear Morphosis continued to play with distinguishing function, public and private space, while also promoting social engagement throughout the building.

more rooted in the site. The plans for the retail space that would take place on the street level were still undecided but they knew they wanted to have a cafĂŠ and retail space to assist in integrating with Sunset Boulevard. Once the redesign brought the apartment towers down, the secondary stairs





unnecessary. There is only one stairway to enter the building to then either take a right towards the apartments or a left towards the academic building; this fusion promotes social interaction, which was one of Emerson College’s main goals. 4

February 2010 Model This last model shows that most significant change in design that was crucial to the success of the building: the split of the interior structure. Two snaking torqued volumes now contain the educational and “We’re making a little town, we’re looking at uniqueness and not repetition.” Thom Mayne

administrative spaces. Splitting the interior section into two created interplay between interior and exterior space. The twisting structural




movement throughout the building for students and professors to flow between rooms, bridges, and terraces. The entrance to the building is still on the second level at the base of the stairs, but one of the connecting bridges passes over the grand stair with a large screen on its façade, which turns the upper portion into an outdoor movie theater.



Embracing Hollywood Emerson College’s commitments for their LA center were to bring the unique academic experience to LA, be civic leaders in the community, and the commitment to partner with LA companies and businesses. With these lofty goals it was necessary for Morphosis to design an equally impressive building that would both functionally and visually stand out. Thom Mayne stated the influence of site in his design and noted the social, cultural, and architectural differences between Boston and LA and wanted to embrace its surroundings with views of the Hollywood sign, city skyline, and its prime location on Sunset Boulevard that would define the sites iconic location. The Emerson College Los Angeles Center is fitting for its location as the entire school itself becomes a stage set for filming, screening, and industry events with the Hollywood sign, LA skyline, and pacific ocean as its permanent backdrop. 7


Building Analysis