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Unveiled> Idyllwild Arts Academy
Sander Architects designs a performing arts center in a secluded mountain town.
Courtesy Sander Architects

Idyllwild Arts Academy Performing Arts Center
Architect: Sander Architects
Client: Idyllwild Arts Academy
Location: Idyllwild, CA
Completion: Phase 1, 2013

Venice architect Whitney Sander, a serious music lover, has been chosen to design a performing arts center for Idyllwild Arts Academy, a prestigious arts school located in a secluded mountain town about two hours east of Los Angeles.

The two-phase project will consist first of a 10,000-square-foot concert hall, with the rest of the 30,000-square-foot project—including another theater— to follow. Sander says the design has two major inspirations: the rugged local geology and the music produced at the school. The project, built using a cost-saving combination of prefabricated structural steel and on-site construction, will be clad with a rough steel, perhaps Cor-ten, that will reflect the reddish hues of the local rock. Its form, literally traced from a piece of sheet music by composer Richard James, will thrust and crack like a piece of the earth.

The $20 million center will be fronted by a large curving glass curtain wall, exposing much of the large lobby to natural light and to the rustic environs. A large balcony over the lobby will provide more public meeting space. Inside, the complex will contain an art gallery, café, two theaters, a scene shop, green rooms, and other amenities.

Sander will also help develop a green space next to the project that he says will serve as a campus centerpiece. The concert hall portion of the project is being funded by an individual donor, and the school is still raising money for the remainder of the project. Phase 1 is expected to be completed by 2013, with Phase 2 beginning just after.

Sam Lubell