Edward M. Dowd Art & Art History Santa Clara University
Precedents provide the cultural core of any architectural design. The identity of a project inherently builds upon references users relate to because they foster a sense of belonging in their community: it speaks to who they are. The Santa Clara University Arts and Art History building makes a virtue out this first principle. With its roots in the past, its architecture projects its faculty, students, and staff into the future. Tradition and innovation are blended into a confident scheme where Art is produced, reflected upon, recorded, and narrated.
Firmly earthbound, its linear massing rests serenely on the southeast edge of the block along Franklin Street on the campus map. Its stylistic setting is markedly historical and cohesive in the consistency of that esthetic reference, with a recognizable palette of building elements. The exterior skin is an exercise in flirtation with the architectural syntax of a Renaissance palace with its base, middle section, and termination, wrapping a rather contemporary volumetric composition rising three stories above the ground. The design idiom of the structure displays learned quotations from the classical period, while remaining stitutionalunapologetically modern in its planning diagram and vertical organization throughout. Together with cornices, arcades, mansard roofs, loggias, and towers, current formal gestures coexist: asymmetries, juxtaposition of geometries, offset planes, window walls, and multiple rhythms of openings.
It is the iconicity of the Rotunda covered with a shallow dome of Wrightian pitch that first draws the gaze of the campus population toward this building. As it emerges from a grand podium its soaring presence determines the urban image of this structure. And on the same organic theme, the grand arch signaling the entrance into the premise is evocative of the banks Frank Lloyd Wright’s master, Louis Sullivan, designed in the Mid-West in the early 1900 as well as the works of Renaissance venerable Donato Bramante. This is a design stemming from the pillars of the discipline taught within its walls, making a statement that in art, as in everything else, nothing comes from nothing.
If on the outside the windows puncture a solid wall, what strikes the visitor is how luminous the inside is. Generous natural light bathes the interiors with the help of tall ceilings for all three levels. Art studios, a spacious gallery, classrooms, and support spaces for faculty, students, and visiting artists and scholars activate the various floors in the premise. Upon entering the out-of-scale arch, visitors experience a double-height lobby sculpted through sinusoidal soffit changes. Their fluidity imbues the building blocks with movement suggestive of the circulation patterns the user population describe as they inhabit this environment. A most impressive large blown-glass sculpture by renown Dale Chihuly hangs from the ceiling at the center of the space to provide a unique visual focus to the occupants.
A noted architectural historian once said that buildings have an esthetic effect and an evocative effect. From there, strong emotional responses ensue and a shared sense of place comes into being. Those larger aspirations fed the intent behind this design.
Santa Clara, CA
Santa Clara University, Santa Clara, CA
John Sutton Photography and Craig Cozart Photography
F4 Team: John Marx , Robert Giannini , James Tefend