Darin Johnstone Architects Transforms a 1970s Post Office Into Art Center College of Design

PROJECT NAME Art Center College of Design
LOCATION Pasadena
FIRM Darin Johnstone Architecture
SQ. FT. 35,000 SQF

It makes total sense. That an art school would have prominent gallery space to showcase student talent. That was the thinking of Ann Field, the undergraduate illustration department chair at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California, and architect Darin Johnstone. Since 2013, Darin Johnstone Architects has renovated four of the school’s buildings, including 870, for fine art and illustration, and 1111, for drawing and painting, both now featuring ample and accessible exhibition space.

Jason Holley’s 10-by-30-foot mural Tall Tales is composed of painted wood sections affixed to drywall. Photography by Art Gray/courtesy of Art Center College of Design.

The former is a two-story 1979 building that had previously housed a post office. DJA took advantage of its existing skylit central atrium and transformed it into the bright and airy Hutto-Patterson Exhibition Hall, which is open to the public. Newly polished concrete flooring flows through the double-height space, now connected to the clerestory above by a new stair in painted steel. Field adds layers of vibrancy with three annual shows. Recently on view was “CloverScout,” an exhibition of works by such alumni as Patrick Hruby, who has collab­orated with Todd Oldham, featuring “hand-painted replicas of graphics projects that have been scaled up,” she says. The 35,000-square-foot volume also contains new classrooms, studios, and staff offices.

A new painted steel stairway connects the hall’s two levels. Photography by Art Gray/courtesy of Art Center College of Design.



Nearby stands the latter, larger building, a six-floor, circa 1983 structure, and it functions as a gateway to the ACCD campus. At its ground level is the Peter and Merle Mullin Gallery, also open to the public. On the top level of the 128,000- square-foot structure are “student living rooms,” Johnstone notes, black-painted break-out areas with built-in banquettes. In between top and bottom are three additional galleries, one of which is currently exhibiting artwork by faculty member Jason Holley. Originally part of the stage design for the International Illustration Conference, it’s recreated here as a 30-foot-long, painted-wood mural. At ACCD, art is not only a multi­media affair but also a multi-venue one.

Throughout: Elite; Vode Lighting; Wac Lighting: Lighting. Glidden; PPG Industries; Sherwin-Williams Company: Paint. Luminesce Design: Lighting Consultant. BuroHappold; John A. Martin & Associates: Structural Engineers. Integral Group; PBS Engineers: MEP. GkkWorks: Project Manager. Matt Construction; Oltmans Construction: General Contractors.

Polished concrete flooring outfits the hall, displaying gouache and digital works by Loris Lora and Ellen Surry. Photography by Art Gray/courtesy of Art Center College of Design.
Built-in MDF seating flanks a student lounge. Photography by Art Gray/courtesy of Art Center College of Design.
Artworks, such as Sunburst by Patrick Hruby, are protected by polyester film that’s been applied to the clerestory windows. Photography by Art Gray/courtesy of Art Center College of Design.
Parakeets is also by Hruby. Photography by Art Gray/courtesy of Art Center College of Design.

> See more from the August 2019 issue of Interior Design

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