Morphosis’ new facility for Emerson College, which looms over the south edge of Sunset Boulevard in the heart of Hollywood, is an entire campus located within a single building.
Emerson is based on the other side of the country, in Boston. But its world-class communications program (specializing in television, film, and journalism) has maintained a serious presence in scattered buildings in Burbank for about 20 years. The new project unifies these programs and provides a permanent location for administration, education, and living.
The project includes 23,000 square feet of classrooms and offices, 57,000 square feet of student and faculty housing, 4,200 square feet of retail, and 120,000 square feet of underground parking.
Two orthogonal 10-story towers housing the residential components make up the building’s east and west faces, sheltering in their interstitial space two torqued volumes whose snaking forms contain the educational and administrative spaces. According to Morphosis project team member Shanna Yates, the architectural notion is that of a hard shell containing a crystalline interior. The student apartment towers are framed in cast-in-place concrete and clad with dark glass curtain walls protected from the sun with motorized sunshades. The building has no active HVAC. The interior will be cooled via a chilled beam system developed by Buro Happold and by operable windows.
The snaking educational and administrative buildings between the residential towers are framed with structural steel. The wavy structures are clad with textured, silvery, folded metal panels. Fabricated off site, the panels clip onto anchors that are welded to the frame. A bridge framed with 100-foot-long castellated steel beams links the two residential towers. It is designed to hold the load of an emergency helicopter.
The facility features an “outdoor room” atop the first two levels, which house classrooms, offices, assembly spaces, and an auditorium. The outdoor room is actually several open-air plazas, where students can congregate and use as sets to film shows and movies. A grand, concrete-framed stair links floors three through five, connecting the plazas. One courtyard will contain a giant tree.
The design and construction team relied on a variety of software programs to coordinate the complex structure’s construction, from Rhino to GT, to Navis Works to Tekla. “A lot of translation had to be done,” said Yates.
When the building opens next year it will be much more than an academic facility; it will be a cutting-edge film and television studio. Much of the open spaces are being fitted with rigging, lighting, and complex A/V plugs known as “media hydrants,” making this academic facility a fine addition to tinseltown.