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Supra Spruce
UCLA launches campus in Playa Vista.
Visitors check out the robotic arm inside the raw space.
Reed Hutchinson

Once the business and technology hub of billionaire eccentric Howard Hughes, the Hercules Campus in Playa Vista is becoming another laboratory to imagine the future, this time of architecture.

This fall, UCLA moves Suprastudio, its one-year M.Arch II program, to the historic campus, much of which has been renovated by architect Brenda Levin. Set within the vicinity of Google, YouTube, and 72andSunny, the program looks to investigate the potential of advanced technology to change the practice of architecture. Suprastudio is making its home in Building 14, right beside the gigantic hangar that witnessed the Spruce Goose under construction.

The new headquarters, recently revealed to the public, is a 13,000-square-foot space with a bow-truss ceiling, original redwood interior walls, and concrete floors. Because the building is a California historical landmark, UCLA kept much of the industrial space’s raw character, only making a few tenant improvements such as new drywall, an updated electrical system, installation of a new high-speed network, and new lighting.

“We wanted to preserve that sense of the past,” said Hitoshi Abe, chair of UCLA’s Architecture and Urban Design program. Worn paint, and inklings of what’s come before are still very much in evidence. “The UCLA main campus is beautiful,” added Abe, “but this is an exciting space where you can make a creative mess.” It is a scaled-up version of one’s garage, perhaps in homage to the many bootstrapped tech-driven projects that have since changed society.

Once open, the space will house three separate studios led by Frank Gehry, Thom Mayne, and Greg Lynn; a shop area; a project showcase section and room for four robotic arms, which will be used during the program. No fixed interior walls will be built, according to Abe, to encourage the exchange of ideas and interaction among students.

Carren Jao