Lux Art Institute

Located on a rugged 4-acre hillside site next to an ecological preserve, the Lux Art Institute redefines the museum experience by combining both museum and artist studio in an integrated complex. The purpose of the institute is to promote artists with an emphasis on environmental art through a rotating residency program, to educate and expose the community to the creative process, and to exhibit the finished works of the artists. The residency program is unique in that it allows visitors to “see art happen” by focusing on the living artist as the creative process unfolds.

To meet the challenges of a steeply sloping site, the program is separated into two longitudinal buildings – a museum and an artist studio/exhibit space. At full completion of the two-phased project, the buildings will front one another on the hillside in a staggered alignment that responds directly to the terrain. The space created between the two structures allows for a series of stepped exhibit gardens to flow between them. The connective space of the gardens climbs the hillside 30 feet to link the arrival court and museum plaza with the main exhibit garden and canyon beyond.

The first completed building of the project is the artist studio/exhibit space. Constructed from a simple palette of materials of board-formed concrete, teak panels, and plaster, the two-story structure intersects the steep slope to create a private lower-level residence for the artists and an upper-level double-height studio with expansive views of the surrounding hillsides. At the studio level, a long exhibit wall panel, “the barn door,” slides open to further expand views and reinforce connections to the outside environment while also allowing breezes to naturally ventilate the interior. Large light monitors oriented to different sections of the sky project from the rooftop at skewed angles. As the sun arcs through the sky, the monitors capture and funnel shifting hues of daylight into the studio below. The point of illumination marks the point of a future underground connection to the planned museum.

Lux is located alongside one of Southern California’s few remaining coastal wetlands. The site overlooks the San Elijo Lagoon, and is surrounded by a wildlife preserve that stretches to the Pacific Ocean. Emphasizing environmental concerns, the museum is designed to use renewable-energy sources. Special design features allow for indoor areas to take advantage of natural air and lighting, reducing the building’s energy consumption.

• A giant barn door opens to naturally cool down the studio area and provide views across the valley.

• Several design considerations—including window placement, a floating roof to shade the sunny south side, and sheltering the residence under the mass of the studio—reduce the building’s overall energy usage by over 10 percent compared to similar California buildings.

• Windows and skylights increase natural lighting, while interior lighting is minimal. Halogen and low-voltage lighting maintain an average lighting density of 1.5 watt/sq.ft. Building design minimizes the amount of indoor light emitted at night.

• Efficient HVAC systems consist of three high-efficiency condensing furnaces. Individual programmable zone thermostats control the operation of each air conditioning system.

• Storm runoff water is filtered to prevent contamination of the ocean or lagoons.

• Nearly 75 percent of construction waste was recycled and diverted from the landfill for eco-conscious construction.

• Materials used consisted of recycled content, with a significant portion manufactured or extracted within 500 miles from the site.

• An indoor air-quality management program implemented during construction utilized low-emitting adhesives, sealants, paints, and coatings to maintain a non-toxic environment.

• Xeriscaped gardens feature more than 750 rare native plants that live and grow naturally in the region without needing special maintenance, fertilizers, or pesticides. The plants also use up to 50 percent less water and help prevent soil erosion.

Lux Art Institute has the distinction of being the first LEED-certified “green” museum in California.


Project Type


Encinitas, United States

Related links


  • Renzo Zecchetto Architects