Since 1918, it has been Otis’ mission to train artists and designers to enrich our world through their creativity, their skill, and their vision. The lack of clear identity or sense of place was causing the college to lose promising applicants to competing institutions who could also provide more affordable room and board options. Otis decided to embrace their urbanity and expand within their tight site by building up—introducing a new structure with mixed-use program to fill the voids. The campus improvement and expansion project allowed the reunification of all undergraduate academic programming on one campus, bringing students enrolled in the college’s renowned Fashion Design program from downtown Los Angeles to campus.
The project consists of a radical reworking of the entire campus—reprogramming all the existing buildings, remodeling some interiors and constructing a new 4- and 5-story V-shaped housing and academic building with adjacent model shop to enclose the campus and reclaim its central quad as its heart. The multi-story expansion project is a bit like a layered wedding cake with a different program on each level and in each wing.
As a premier design school, aesthetics was of critical importance to the project at every scale from the specific color of red used to essentially rebrand the entire school to the detail of the library stack end panel signage. Color became a major design element and was used to designate specific program areas, assist with wayfinding, and unify the campus architecture. Materials such as cast-in-place concrete, pleated and perforated metal, slatted wood, prefinished plywood, clear plexiglass, colored resin, and felt were chosen and paired together in various ways to evoke a sense of craft and trigger thinking about design and fabrication.
Ehrlich | Fisher; also DPR Construction; Freeman Group; Saiful Bouquet; Glumac; Ahbe Landscape; Martin Newson & Associates; Webb Design; Egg Office; Burns and Bouchard