Situated between Emeryville’s historic Park Avenue district and the big-box commercial zone lining Interstate 580, the ECA negotiates two scales and speeds of urban experience. Engaging and accessible at a pedestrian scale, the new building upholds the local fabric and contextual language of Emeryville’s industrial past while presenting a progressive vision for the future. Digital displays located along the perimeter extend a mediascape beyond the boundaries of the building, while the oversized signage operates as a beacon at the scale and speed of the freeway. Regions of geometric and programmatic intensity generate a gradient heat map across the building, sponsoring random locator clouds of LED’s on the building skin.

Occupying yet dissolving the brick walls of a 1940’s factory, the architecture is experienced as a fluid, varied landscape. The public space of the street extends into the building through a tear in the brick wall opening to a public courtyard, proceeding inside to connect the two anchor programs – the theatre and main gallery. Along this public space, programmatic adjacencies are choreographed to emphasize artistic production, promoting strategic visual relationships to encourage experimentation and public engagement, heightening the immersive art experience.

The building is conceived as a device that supports highly flexible organizational uses – art, performance, educational, and social. The multi-form theater permits a variety of performance arrangements and processional circulations. Its walls are ‘crumpled’ asymmetrically to create acoustic reflecting surfaces, using a custom C++ program to control depth and complexity of the process. The main gallery offers an uninterrupted space for a variety of display configurations, while subsidiary exhibition spaces create more intimate or active settings. The building delivers daylight throughout, with the quality of the daylighting of the main gallery specifically controlled to be even yet animated within the large space.

CLIENT: Emeryville Center for the Arts

LOCATION: Emeryville, California

PROGRAM: 28,000 sf arts center

STATUS: Unbuilt (invited competition)

Structural, Derrick Roorda (Buro Happold)
Daylighting, Coolshadow