The Los Angeles office of the architecture firm, Hardy Holzman Pfeiffer Associates (HHPA), was chosen to plan and design a new campus that reflects SUA's humanistic and democratic approach to education. Lead by founding partner Norman Pfeiffer, FAIA, and principal, Jean Marie Gath, HHPA worked collaboratively with Summit Architects, Inc., landscape architects SWA Group, and facilities programming consultant Ira Fink & Associates.
The Campus, Phase One
The team created the first phase of a hilltop campus that consists of 750,000 square feet (70,000 square meters) of facilities, enclosed by a loop road that limits traffic and conceals parking at the periphery.
Phase one of the two-phase project includes the library, academic buildings, the student center, recreation center, student services, a guest residence, an alumni and reception center, and residence halls.
Buildings are clustered to encourage student/ faculty dialogue and are intersected by quaint plazas, terraces, lavender gardens, and colonnades. Future phases will include a music and fine arts hall and a major performing arts center. However, the initial phase of the campus is planned to feel and function as if complete.
Because of the ethnic and religious affiliations of the university founders, one might expect a style more akin to post and lintel temple architecture. Instead, SUA opted for an interpretation of a Mediterranean style that reflects the architecture of neighboring housing developments and creates a romanticized academic village.
The building exteriors are of hand-troweled plaster with classic Italian travertine and American cherrywood detailing, heavy timber eaves, copper flashings and gutters, and traditional terracotta roofs and chimney pots.
A Walking Tour of SUA
The first stop for visitors and prospective students is the Founder's Hall, a copper-domed building reminiscent of the Italian Renaissance fronting a human-made, minimally landscaped lake. Designed by HHPA and SWA Group, the lake serves as both a serene campus focal point and a reservoir for fire protection.
An impressive, 18-foot- (5.5-meter-) high by 195-foot- (60-meter) long stone belvedere wall clad in cleft Italian travertine lines the front of Founder's Hall. The building has a significant presence at the entrance to the campus and evokes the sense of order and balance characteristic of classical architecture.
Though classical in appearance, the building boasts modern construction, mechanical, lighting, and environmental systems. A state-of-the-art wind-monitoring station mounted on the dome's apex controls the natural ventilation and the emergency smoke evacuation system in the 10-story-high atrium.
The recreation center, located near the campus entrance, is an oddly shaped structure that seems to have nothing in common with the stately Founder's Hall. In addition to various sports and recreation rooms and administrative areas, it houses an Olympic-size swimming pool and an 18,500-square-foot (1700-square-meter) gymnasium.
To enter the campus core, one passes through the library, referred to as the "gateway to the university." A grand stair topped by an arch of monumental scale, leads to the library breezeway, an impressive space of equal scale that extends beyond the library in a classical colonnade.
Directly across the small campus is the student center, the "heart of the university." It is here that the campus has best captured the intended sense of being both inward and outward looking. Terraces and overlooks provide views of the surrounding canyons and parkland, yet the patchwork of small plazas and landscaped spaces create intimate settings for informal gatherings, or quiet refuges for solitude and reflection.
A sun-drenched plaza at the student center is designed as an open air "marketplace," an informal gathering space, or reception area. Inside, an open communal dining room comfortably seats students and faculty together as a way to encourage dialogue and promote the university's pedagogy.
A Personal Approach to Education
Pauling Hall, one of the two academic buildings designed and built in phase one, is to the east of the student center. In addition to classrooms, lecture halls, and offices, the four-story building features science laboratories and fine art studios.
To the north, Ghandi Hall is similar in scale and size, and is designed as a "cluster configuration." Each cluster contains a flexible 20-student team workspace, a seminar room, and three faculty offices.
This design is in direct response to SUA's approach to education, which lies in the comparative teaching of international perspectives. In the core curriculum and "learning cluster" courses, small, interdisciplinary teams of students and faculty work together to develop solutions to local, regional, and world problems.
In response to a culture that now depends on, and demands, Internet access at all times, both academic buildings and the exterior courtyards are wired for computer networks.
The preservation of the natural environment in and around the campus is noteworthy because it adds to the sense of permanence and demonstrates a commitment to the land. It is impossible not to feel some connection to nature while strolling through campus.
In many ways, this is an idyllic setting for an SUA education; a well-crafted balance of classic representations of academia and democracy, a sense of community, and the integration of natural elements that appeal to the internal wisdoms. The nurturing environment is in place, and time will tell if this unique institution on the hill produces the peace-makers of tomorrow.
Allison Milionis is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer with a varied background in the arts and architecture professions. She has been published in several international architecture and design publications and is currently working on her first novel.
Project Management, Initial Master Plan, Architectural Design: Summit Architects, Inc.
Master Plan, Architectural Design: Hardy Holzman Pfeiffer Associates
Structural/Mechanical/Electrical Engineering: Ove Arup & Partners
Core Campus Landscape Design: SWA Group
Facilities Programming: Ira Fink & Associates
Civil Engineering, Grading CM, Surveying: Robert Bein, Wm Frost & Associates
Construction Management/General Contracting: Swinerton Builders