New Home for USC’s School of Cinematic Arts

April 21, 2009

A client’s vision for highly efficient, durable, and useable buildings turns into reality

With high-performance capabilities that are rare for an educational facility, the School of Cinematic Arts at the University of Southern California (USC) debuts its new complex.

The university and Urban Design Group in Dallas, TX, worked together to turn the client’s vision for highly efficient, durable, and useable buildings into reality.

Located in the heart of USC’s Los Angeles campus, the complex is composed of six structures. The first two components – named after George Lucas and Steven Spielberg – opened for classes this January. Featuring a total gross area of 137,000 square feet, these components of the complex have a mix of high-performance capabilities (designed for LEED Silver status) to last 100 years, as well as thematic aesthetics to recall the school’s 80-year history. The buildings’ California Style was in vogue in the southern part of the state when the university offered its first film courses in 1929.

Surrounding a central courtyard, the Lucas and Spielberg structures contain classrooms, administrative offices, an indoor/outdoor café, exhibition/installation halls, eight screening rooms/theaters that seat between 42 and 200 people, and audiovisual editing labs. Construction is currently under way for the four other buildings, which will have a gross area of more than 63,000 square feet. Located immediately adjacent to the Lucas and Spielberg buildings, the new facilities will be completed in August 2010 and will include animation and digital arts production spaces, four soundstages, a Production Equipment Center, and a new headquarters for admissions/student services operations.

Significant design aspects include:

  • A computerized 3D model for design that USC’s facilities management team will use as a framework for other parts of the campus.
  • Superior earthquake resilience – typical for nuclear energy plants – because of “fused rotating walls” that reroute fissures to repairable areas instead of destroying the buildings.
  • Spacious design for free-flow collaboration between students and professors, and flexibility for the changes in educational programming and technology.

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