STUDIOS was engaged to design the fourth academic building on the University of Californias newest campus in Merced. The three-story, interdisciplinary facility provides instructional, office and research space to the School of Social Science, Humanities and Arts in three major areas of concentration: Social, Behavioral and Cognitive Sciences, Business Management, and Art.
The building is sited along the main campus thoroughfare, Scholars Way, and adjacent to Le Grand Canal. The design and material palette respond to the Central Valleys strong agrarian and industrial forms; the concrete exterior, deep overhangs, arcades, and sunscreens continue the precedent set by neighboring structures. Pre-formed metal siding complements both the adjacent Central Plant and the local architectural vernacular; a whimsical exterior metal stair evokes the regions many grain elevators.
Faculty offices and research space are organized around a light-filled, double-height atrium with views of the canal and the nearby Sierra Mountains. Within the atrium, a two-story sculptural element The Rock provides additional meeting spaces with prime views out of the two-story picture window. Classrooms are housed on the ground floor, as well as exhibit space and multi-purpose rooms with automated fold-up garage doors that open out to outdoor yards, taking advantage of the open space along the canal. A concrete stair vertically connects all three floors; concrete bridges span the second level of the atrium, increasing circulation and activating the large, open space.