The overall design motif harmoniously balances the traditional and modern design aspirations of Santa Clara University and Santa Clara Law. The focus is on first creating a set of elegant and refined historical facades, which reflect the beauty of the older buildings on campus. The two anchor masses are then connected by an equally elegant, but modern infill of glass and metal. Modern design allows us to create expansive place-making based spaces, which traditional styles do not easily support. It also allows for a much greater degree of openness and transparency. This formal transparency addresses both the main entrance to the SCU Campus and creates a strong and open link west towards the Business School.
Immediately visible upon entering the main threshold of the campus, a gateway plaza expresses the Social Justice focus of the Santa Clara Law school. Its prized high visibility gives a signal of accessibility and warmth to the building’s identity. A great arcing wall of stone embraces a large plaza. Tuscan columns speak to the past, while just behind the two-story glass curtain wall of the building’s entrance hints of modern transparency. On the west side of the plaza. there is an outdoor classroom, with the noble vestiges of the Roman Forum. Within it, a podium stands as a beacon of free speech, hinting at similar icons in the world- the Speaker’s Corner in London being a ready allusion. On the east side of the plaza, in counterpoint, we find a glimmering glass globe, a signpost that the future is a place of exhilarating diversity, a cosmopolitan totality encompassing the whole human race. The law school building invites those who want to invest in the project of social justice to be part of the architecture and debate their viewpoint in an atmosphere of discursive acceptance. Interactive displays of social justice history are located throughout to make this open area, just like the other two, a space for learning.
Directly outside this rounded glass veil is the Ethics Garden, at the midpoint in the journey through the building. Its centrality is both logistic and symbolic. Three gardens of equal scale embody the dynamic of assessing law in action. These are quiet, contemplative places to dwell on the issues of ethics and humanity. Two are at ground-level representing the duality of right and wrong, black and white, of antinomies of principles. Wedged between them, a third elevated garden is that grey area where these two poles might meet, a place to gain long-term perspective. It is in these spaces that the inner self can find a dimension to breathe and raise to new heights of awareness about the innumerable questions that justice, in theory. and in practice, raises. Displays of authority figures in the field punctuate the gardens and pace the churning of concomitant thoughts.
Stepping beyond the Social Justice Plaza, a meandering trail takes you in an interior world filled with solidity and transparency. The intermediate point of arrival is the grand hemicycle where the heart of the building resides: The HIVE. In this fulcrum, the community committed to the public social well-being comes together. The environment is both majestic and cozy, humane and grand, soaring and soothing, assertive and soft. The stone walls invite touch and sensorial delight. The glass confers lightness and visibility. It is in this spaces that both the three plazas and the interiors converge: the apex of the architectural experience. It is also the center of the buildings greatest transparency, providing a strong and direct connection both West, to the Business School, and North East, to the area of future Campus expansion. You feel at once, a part of the entire Law School, and a vital part of the world outside.
At the end of this inner passage the Excellence Plaza unfolds: it is dedicated to displaying the standards of excellence achieved by the School of Law and it’s Alumni. A curved foil of masonry, this time a column free portal, frames the lyrical hardscape and its lush landscape. Within this garden, students, faculty and alumni can regroup and reconnect with their Alma Mater. While strolling in this informal space, they reflect upon their allegiance to their field and renew their life commitment to the Law. Interactive kiosks and boards are the ongoing storytelling devices to captivate the audience in a narrative of meaningful impact of the School of Law and their alumni on the public realm. Pedestrian friendly, and non-institutional, the garden comfortably inhabits past and future to live confidently in the present. This plaza is a point of arrival as much as it is a place for stationary contemplation, honoring the distinguished history of the school’s alumni and their footprint in the world of law.
This tripartite scheme speaks to the past and travels the future. Its architectural idiom acknowledges its references but pushes them into tomorrow. While the anchors of the scheme are historicist, the middle section is modern, where the coming together of the community takes place. Its concurrent existence is constantly reminded through the architecture, inside and outside.
The design uses both the contrast and commonality of traditional and modern styles to create an architecture that speaks to both and builds off the strengths of each to create a unified whole.
Location Santa Clara, CA
Santa Clara University, Santa Clara, CA
Form4 Architecture / Pictury
F4 Team: John Marx / Robert Giannini / James Tefend