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The California Endowment in California by Rios Clementi Hale Studios
April 12th, 2012 by Sanjay Gangal
Article source: Rios Clementi Hale Studios
Program: Founded in 1996, The California Endowment is a private statewide foundation that advocates quality health care for all Californians. Its new downtown Los Angeles multipurpose facility replaces its former, suburban Woodland Hills headquarters. The new facility features the Center for Healthy Communities, a conference and resource center intended to be an innovative venue for mobilizing community and civic leaders, health providers, advocates, and policymakers in the search for solutions to California’s critical health and health care issues. The new facility also houses The Endowment’s administrative headquarters and its Los Angeles regional program office.
Located on a 6.5-acre site directly east of Terminal Annex post office and the historic Union Station, the facility is at the crux of several diverse ethnic communities: Chinatown, Little Tokyo, and El Pueblo de Los Angeles. The Center is intended to be a highly visible and accessible resource for organizations that share The Endowment’s mission and objectives; as such, the building was to manifest The California Endowment’s principles of community, health, partnership, diversity, and transparency.
Design: Winning The California Endowment’s architectural competition, Rios Clementi Hale Studios—a Los Angeles-based interdisciplinary design firm—created the building and landscape design as a bold, colorful centerpiece that visually connects the area’s disparate ethnic communities; honors the surrounding urban context; and espouses the tenets of transparency, openness, and health. The building is light, crisp, accented with lively colors, and generously nurtured with green plantings and connections to the outdoors.
Instead of a single, monolithic edifice, the facility was organized into three connecting volumes that reflect the varying scales of the area’s built environment. Facing the street front, a four-level volume—clad in panels of white, clear, and blue laminated glass—houses administrative and operational functions, while two, one-level wings extend around a garden courtyard. Programmed to accommodate the Center for Healthy Communities, the wings are double height, and have numerous meeting rooms of various configurations, research library, and café. Facing the garden, the meeting spaces and café have retractable glass doors, which present a high level of transparency between the indoors and outdoors. The doors can be lifted, allowing guests and employees to spill out in the courtyard to enjoy an outdoor meal or engage in conversation.
Facing the busy, Alameda Street thoroughfare, the16,000-square-foot courtyard presents a serene, contemporary outdoor space influenced by the iconic California lifestyle, historic Mission courtyards, and the
Japanese Gardens in nearby Little Tokyo. The courtyard is landscaped with concrete-aggregate paving; low-lying, rectangular-shaped planters with wood bench seating; and a central fountain with stone pebbles. The courtyard garden was designed to be light and peaceful, belying its location above a subterranean garage. Outside the courtyard on Alameda Street, a landscaped public walk further activates the streetscape with drifts of low-lying, riparian plant species that hint at the building’s proximity to the Los Angeles River. Portions of the public walk are also treated with concrete-aggregate paving, extending the contemplative garden experience to the street.
The main building volume features an atrium, around which workspaces are organized on the upper three floors. The atrium serves as an important daylighting tool, as it allow natural light to penetrate deep into the interior offices. Horizontal panels of opaque and transparent glass line the walls of the atrium shaft, while slim panels of blue-laminated glass extend vertically in a seemingly random pattern. When inside the building, occupants view the bright blue California sky both literally (through clear windows) and figuratively (through the blue glass). The natural light and weightlessness of the interior space confer a healthy, crisp office environment that is directly in line with the philosophy of The California Endowment.
Colors, forms, and materials were extensively used as expressions of the vibrant cultural enclaves that border the building, as well as the various regions and landscapes of California. A color palette of tawny ocher, mottled green, dusty red, and two-tone blue was applied to the volume facades. The angular upper-portion of the double-height wings are clad in colored metal siding—tawny ocher in reference to hue of the earth and surrounding buildings, and dusty red to connect with the clay-tile rooftops of Chinatown and Union Station. Set atop the main building, a rectangular, mottled-green volume—which accommodates the height of the interior atrium lobby—draws its hue and articulated form from the brawny foothills that ring the northeastern edge of downtown.
The façade’s two-tone blue windows and white panels capture the pale-blue Southern California sky. The metal siding hints at the freight cars left near Union Station, as well as the adjacent industrial buildings, many of which are finished in the same material.
In recognition of The California Endowment’s statewide constituency, Rios Clementi Hale Studios created a vigorous landscape design program that reflects the state’s varied geography and flora. Placed strategically throughout the site, garden walls and select paving areas are embedded with stones that have been culled from the Central Valley, Sierra Nevada, and other regions. California Sycamore and Pepper trees are planted throughout the campus, as are Redwood trees, which are dotted in small groves throughout the campus. The Redwood groves create small gardens that evoke a Northern California microclimate. The campus also features a fragrant medicinal garden planted with Aloe Vera, Pennyroyal, Rosemary, and Lavender.
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