We have been gawking at the incredible silver cube that has risen on Sunset five blocks east of Vine for a year now, so when the Buzz received an invitation for a guided tour and meeting with the architect, we leapt at the chance to get inside and look around.
Designed by architect Thom Mayne of Culver City’s Morphosis firm, the small Boston-based liberal arts Emerson College LA has made quite an impression with its high-tech and futuristic west coast campus. The building emerges from the flats of Sunset Blvd in Hollywood much like the Monolith rises on the lunar landscape in 2001 A Space Odyssey. You certainly can’t miss its presence and wonder at the statement it makes.
The combined dormitory and classroom facility in a giant open-ended cube faces the Hollywood sign to the north, and residential vistas to the south including Hancock Park and Larchmont Village. Designed to LEED Gold rating environmental standards, the building provides both dormitory living space and academic classrooms in the two north-south towers that overlook several levels of open plazas and a “Grand Stair” where students congregate and events will be staged.
With theater spaces, a video conferencing “distance-learning” classroom, audio post-production suites, professional screening rooms, super-modern dorm rooms and tech integrated into all aspects of the place, we imagine many of the 200 students who will take up residence on the site will indeed feel like they’ve landed on their own planet. One hundred thirty seniors are already in residence this semester, with a full load of 215 expected next fall. Emerson has operated its west coast campus in LA for 27 years for students interning in film, television, journalism, marketing and communications. This new campus is more central to their internships at studios in the Valley and Hollywood.
“We built a little town here,” architect Thom Mayne told a small group of reporters in an interview last week on the Emerson College LA campus. “It has the main stair that is the continuation of an urban idea of outside-inside…producing a space that’s a redefinition of a piazza, but actually an urban space and very volumetric in this case.” Read more on the interview with Mayne here.
In the meantime, take a gander at the Emerson LA building next time you’re in Hollywood. There’s a very fashionable, delicious and reasonably-priced cafeteria, Emerson Kitchen, in the building’s Sunset Blvd frontage. It is a fresh break from your typical college cafeteria, and gives you the opportunity to pretend, for a moment, that you’re back in college again, this time in the heart of Hollywood.