SCI-ARC CONFERENCE ROOM / LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA
CLIENT: Southern California Institute of Architecture
SITE: two bays of existing concrete truck terminal renovated and occupied by architecture school
PROGRAM: Café, boardroom, and seminar room in two bays of existing historical concrete frame terminal
SIZE: 2,800 ft2
COMPLETION: Fall 2004 (design)
NOTES: industrial-scaled steel drawer-slide mechanism shuttling sliding glass door enclosed volume across and beyond existing building
PUBLICATIONS: Contemporary Architecture in America, Tashen, forthcoming
A competition was held among the SCI-arc faculty to design a new boardroom, seminar room and cafeteria in the northernmost two bays of the famously-long freight building the school now occupies. The building is a listed historic structure, so no additions visible from the exterior were allowed, either on the roof or to the sides. In calling for three more or less equally-sized program elements in two equal bays, the brief was implicitly asking for compromise or sleight-of-hand from the competitors. J,P:A chose sleight-of-hand.
In this scheme, the boardroom was given one of the upper bays, while the other upper bay was removed to create a double height space. The seminar room and cafeteria share the bay immediately below the board room; the kitchen area for the cafeteria is located, with storage, in the basement, from where it serves both the cafeteria and board room via a large freight elevator that traverses the double height bay. The cafeteria dining area and seminar room share the same bay only in a nominal sense, when either is being used alone. When both need to be used at the same time, the volume expands to accommodate the additional space requirements via an industrial-scaled drawer-slide mechanism. This device permits a full bay’s worth of space to slide out to either side of the freight building. In the fully extended position, this cantilevered space can be used for one program function, while the space left behind in the building can be used for the other. Since the room/drawer is able to shut when not in use, the facade of the freight building is preserved and the injunction against exterior additions is honored.
Needless to say, the transgressive nature of the slid-out program is a principle attraction. The competition was held during a period when the vacant land next to SCI-arc, which had for so long served as a recreation yard and open-air laboratory for the school, was being reclaimed by its owners. The owners of this parcel were determined that SCI-arc should be prevented from enjoying such casual use, eventually erecting a fence around it. The fence did not yet exist at the time of the competition, but the drawer-slide would have made quick work of it if it had been there.