Merit - Excellence in Architecture for Building Additions, Renovation or Adaptive Reuse

Chapman University

Sandi Simon Center for Dance
Chapman University - Sandi Simon Center for Dance
Jury Comments
“. . . beautiful and transformational using a simple palette . . . applaud commitment to adaptive reuse . . . new and old materials combine to make memorable spaces . . . forms complement the existing structure . . .”


    • Site – 57,655 sq.ft; Building – 33,367 sq.ft
    • National Register of Historic Places, 1918
    • Exceeds National Association of Schools of Dance (NASD) accreditation standards
    • Fitwel certified
    • The project celebrates the character-defining features of the rare and historically significant citrus packing house.
    • The adaptive reuse strategy opens the original floor to create a three-story space.


Chapman University’s Sandi Simon Center for Dance is an expansive new education and performing arts center that redefines a former orange packing house. Landmarked by the National Register of Historic Places, the architect’s adaptive reuse strategy preserves the exterior identity while opening the interior structure with a calculated cut through the original floor, allowing for a reorganization into three levels and forming a new circulation through the space. The dance center houses five studios for dance instruction, a performance studio that provides space for small concerts and master classes, two classrooms, a training room, and faculty offices. It addresses not only the studio and classroom needs of the dance program but also provides spaces for students to engage socially. A quiet room at the third-level mezzanine offers a particularly intimate space for studying alone or collaborating in small groups. The new home to the Dance Department provides a central and inspired environment for students and faculty that brings greatly needed and significantly more instructional and performance space to the program.

The center sits at the intersection of Chapman University’s Cypress Street Arts Corridor and the newly conceived Philosopher’s Walk. This thoughtful and strategic addition to campus bolsters the K-Residence Hall Courtyard, encourages social engagement, and enhances the student experience by connecting them directly to the outdoor public space. The facility complements the latest developments in student accommodations while strategically leaving space for future development within the existing shell of the historic building.

The adaptive reuse strategy required precise planning and innovative approaches to transform the structure from a one-story warehouse space with an unused, uninhabitable basement into a multi-level center for dance. This process included celebrating unique elements of the existing building, utilizing the original wood flooring in the new design, and incorporating new structural elements. Polycarbonate, selected for its reflectivity and translucency, layers walls and openings in ways that allow the architecture to reflect the ideas of movement and the ephemeral nature of performance embodied in the program. Enormous historic trusses were left exposed, and historic, operable clerestory windows have been retrofit with actuators to open and expel heat when triggered by the mechanical system. Additionally, practice studios abutting the western facade are defined by double wall and window assemblies to minimize passing trains’ acoustics and create a balanced acoustic environment for dance.

Project Team

Lorcan O’Herlihy Architects [LOHA]

PrincipalinCharge: Lorcan O’Herlihy; Project Director: Ghazal Khezri; Principal: Ian Dickenson; Project Lead: Joe Tarr, Abel Garcia; Project Team: Morgan Starkey, Kathryn Sonnabend; Project Assist: Kevin Murray, Wentao Guo; Structural: Structural Focus; MEP: Buro Happold; Civil: KPFF; Theater: Auerbach Pollock Friedlander; Acoustical: Veneklasen Associates; Historic: Historic Resources Group; Signage: IN-FO.CO; Interiors: Dotrio, Inc.; GC: R.D. Olson