Always in Fashion
Clive Wilkinson designs another Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising site, this time in San Diego
Edie Cohen -- Interior Design, 6/1/2009 12:00:00 AM
By our count, Clive Wilkinson had completed three previous projects for California's Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising, in Irvine, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. The San Diego location, newest to the fold, came in at number four. No, Wilkinson corrected us. The number is closer to 14 or 15 if you factor in all Clive Wilkinson Architects's interventions, large and small, since the school signed on in 2001. Clearly, Wilkinson knows how FIDM works—and what would work for the students and faculty of the two-year educational and vocational program in San Diego.
"We had figured out a formula and were free to apply it," Wilkinson remarks. "Putting the right things in the right place, where the light's good, is just common sense." So classrooms, faculty offices, the library, and the student lounge hug the perimeter of the 31,000-square-foot floor plate, the third floor of a new office tower. Meanwhile, functions such as the financial-services center are closer to the core but figuratively front-and-center—in this case, immediately available next to reception.
Like forerunners, San Diego's FIDM has a plan predicated on transparency meant to foster interaction. Almost every space is glass-fronted, even classrooms, with the walls of one sporting inspirational words from FIDM's president and CEO: "Freedom to succeed." "Freedom to fail." Connecting the classrooms to other "monuments," as Wilkinson describes the various function zones, are swaths of sand-colored quartz-composite flooring.
Though this latest installment isn't the largest, he says, "It's built the best. FIDM was more focused on maintenance and durability." San Diego is, in a word, grown-up. There's no pervasive wash of color as with the bubble-gum pink in Irvine. There's no playground allusion like the blue swimming-pool lounge in L.A.
That's not to say Wilkinson didn't bring his characteristic verve to unexpected places, for example the ceiling of the student lounge. "As a fashion metaphor, I was thinking of the ruffles of an Elizabethan collar," he says. Updating that notion, he folded horizontal strips of galvanized steel around individual bare-bulb compact fluorescents. The result is a shimmering angular maze that hovers over white Corian tabletops in similar angular shapes. "It was a relatively simple way to fragment yet unify the space," he continues.
Elsewhere, he suspended canopies below the exposed ceiling, helping to dispel any potential spec-office vibes. A strip of lemon-yellow painted drywall starts out above a built-in banquette in reception before moving into the library and expanding to shelter the circulation desk. In corridors, the canopies are veneered in rift-cut white oak, the characteristic surfacing for millwork and cabinetry throughout.
Galvanized steel plays an important role as well. Wilkinson built the student store out of a galvanized-steel framework and panels, plus glass enlivened by tangerine-orange vinyl. In the adjacent library, a galvanized-steel transom is visible above the stacks, and panels of the metal wrap an internal meeting room.
Wilkinson saved his biggest splash for one of the smallest spaces. An open corner carved out of an enclosed island afloat in the center of the floor plate, the main computer lounge is "the heart muscle of the school," he says. Taking that image to its literal conclusion, everything is a gutsy red: the high-gloss paint on the walls and ceiling, the carpet on the floor, the plastic laminate on the work ledge supporting the computers, the swivel chairs by Maarten Van Severen, the double-sided foam-block benches.
Three years ago, when Wilkinson was commissioned for his first restaurant, his firm set up an in-house graphics studio. He put it to good use again at FIDM. Adopting an abstract nature theme, graphic designer Miwako Feuer infused the project with high-voltage visuals. A vinyl supergraphic of a flower, in silver benday dots on a yellow ground, covers the wall behind the reception desk. Another vinyl treatment is found on the ceiling in the financial-services zone: the "cloud cover," as Feuer calls it. To the glass walls of the student store and the conference room she affixed cutout botanical shapes in colored vinyl.
With virtually no surface left untouched, San Diego's FIDM is absolutely Wilkinson, true to form. This latest location capitalizes on some of the tried-and-true tenets of its three predecessors while offering a unique, strictly urban vibrancy—the windows in reception and the main conference room all overlook center field at Petco Park, where the Padres play baseball.
Photography by Benny Chan/Fotoworks.
PROJECT TEAMBEN LOESCHER (PROJECT ARCHITECT); JENNIFER WU (PROJECT DESIGNER); MELANIE AVSHMAN; DAVID ALTCHECH; SAM FARHANG; NEIL MUNTZEL; NICOLE SYLIANTENG: CLIVE WILKINSON ARCHITECTS. DAVID SILVER & ASSOCIATES: LIGHTING CONSULTANT. SIGNAL INTEGRATION TECHNOLOGIES: AUDIOVISUAL CONSULTANT. KPFF: STRUCTURAL ENGINEER. WALSH ENGINEERS: MECHANICAL, PLUMBING CONSULTANT. ARTCRAFTERS CABINETS: WOODWORK. CALDWELL GLASS: GLASSWORK. INTERIOR SPECIALTIES: PLASTERWORK. CSM METAL FABRICATING & ENGINEERING: METALWORK. STEINER CONSTRUCTION: GENERAL CONTRACTOR.
FROM FRONT PANOLAM INDUSTRIES INTERNATIONAL: COUNTER SURFACING (COMPUTER LOUNGE). VITRA: CHAIRS (LOUNGES, CLASSROOM, LIBRARY), TABLES (FINANCIAL SERVICES, LIBRARY). QUINZE & MILAN: CUSTOM BENCHES (COMPUTER LOUNGE), OTTOMANS (FINANCIAL SERVICES). MOROSO: TABLES (RECEPTION). MAHARAM: BANQUETTE UPHOLSTERY (RECEPTION, STUDENT LOUNGE). NIENKÄMPER: LOUNGE SEATING (RECEPTION, LIBRARY). DUPONT: WALL SURFACING (CONFERENCE ROOM), TABLETOP SOLID-SURFACING (STUDENT LOUNGE). MODERN OUTDOOR: FURNITURE (TERRACE). LAMATEC TECHNOLOGIES CORP.: WALL SURFACING (STUDENT STORE). THROUGHOUT MODERNFOLD: STOREFRONT SYSTEM. PULP STUDIO: CUSTOM CLASSROOM PANELS. VODE LIGHTING: WALL WASHERS. ZUMTOBEL: LINEAR, CEILING FIXTURES. ARMSTRONG: CEILING SYSTEM. TANDUS: CARPET. SIDEC: FLOORING. FRAZEE PAINT: PAINT.