EducationARCHITECT

ADDRESSING THE DESIGN NEEDS OF TODAY’S INDEPENDENT SCHOOLS

Winter 2006

A Dream Come True...

Scoble Performing Arts Center Opens

Student and alumnae performances highlighted the Grand Opening Gala of the Fran Norris Scoble Performing Arts Center on the cam- pus of Westridge School for Girls in Pasadena, CA.

(Above) View of the Fran Norris Scoble Performing Arts Center.

The mid-October event included an evening of sumptuous dining under the stars, heartfelt reflections by current and formerTrustees, and the dedication and naming of the facility for Head of School Fran Norris Scoble.

The musical program con- cluded with the Westridge Glee Club, conducted by Paul Stephenson, performing a choral piece by noted composer James Q. Mulholland. The selection, Moments of Being, was commissioned by Westridge School to commemorate the completion of the building.

Designed by Pica + Sullivan Architects, Ltd. the new facility contains a 500-fixed seat proscenium-style theater, the Wagener Black Box teaching theater and the Seiter Family Amphitheater. The building also includes a large stagecraft workshop and costume design studio as well as state-of-the-art labs for audio and theater lighting technology.

Constructed by Chatsworth, CA-based Novus Construction, the facility was created to enhance the school’s technical theater, student directing and performing programs.

Paul Tzanetopoulos, Westridge School’s Performing Arts Coordinator, and Westridge School Facilities Director Brian Williams worked hand-in-hand with the de- sign team in developing the theater components.

Tzanetopoulos notes, “The new facility greatly enhances our performing arts program and amplifies the school’s ability to bring interesting and diverse programming to a larger audience. The embedded technology in all features of the performing arts venues allows substantial support for both performance and presentations to the school community.”

The new Scoble Performing Arts Center was designed to accommodate enhanced vocal and instrumental performances. As speech and music have differing resonance qualities,it was important to have an acoustical strategy that could optimize each.

To create the flexibility, Morro Bay, CA-based acoustical consultant, Dohn and Associates, developed a system of parabolic shaped hard wall surfaces for theatrical and musical performances, and retractable wall curtains to modify the reflection for spoken word presentations. Ceiling hung reflectors were installed to assist in projecting the sound from the stage and provide an even distribution throughout the audience chamber.

The first test of the acoustical design was a smashing success. At the Gala Opening, the orchestra, Westridge Glee Club and alumnae soloists performed without microphones. The sound was clear at every seat.

 

Gallery Exhibit Showcases Student Artwork

(Below) Lower level gallery and Support areas include dressing rooms, green room, costume studio and music practice rooms.

The voices and instruments were distinct yet blended, resulting in an extremely high quality acoustical experience for the audience.

Good sight lines are also critical to the success of any performance space. Theatrical consultant Ed- ward Kaye of Granada Hills, CA-based JK Design Group developed an audience-seating layout to achieve this goal. The arrangement included dividing the audience chamber into two seating groups, a lower area with raked floor, and an upper zone arranged in a “stadium” seating fashion. Staggering chairs from row to row eliminated possible obstructions from fellow theater-goers. JK Design Group also designed the theatrical lighting and sound system and greatly contributed to the success of the project by sharing their extensive experience in theater design and operations.

The Gala event included an art installation in the lower level gallery of the new facility. Entitled Illuminations, the exhibit was created by the Westridge Art Department to showcase student artwork. The exhibit consisted of images projected onto opposing walls. The audience was able to modify the art by creating silhouettes or, be converted into an art piece by becoming a new screen on which the art was projected.
 
In addition to the building dedication, the Gala celebrated the completion of the Building for the Next Century of Excellence campaign. Other projects that were funded by this extraordinarily successful capital campaign included the new Rokus Athletic Complex, the Brown Family Dance Studio, the Studenmund Weight Training Room, the Senior Gate, the Gladys Peterson Terrace, the extensive redesign of the Herrick Quadrangle, and the creation of the new Madeline Court connecting the northern and southern portions of the campus.

 The Primer by Fran Norris Scoble

The Primer reprinted with permission of Westridge School for Girls, Pasadena, CA, copyright 2005

 (Below) Fran Norris Scoble Performing Arts Center at Westridge School for Girls in Pasadena, CA.

Before the new Performing Arts Center was just a huge hole in the ground, Westridge commissioned an original choral piece to commemorate the completion of the building. The composer, James Mulholland, accepted the commission and asked us to choose the words for which he would write a musical setting. It was an easy choice.

I have long admired and been moved by Virginia Woolf’s eloquent passage describing what she called “moments of being.” Woolf frequently referred to the “cotton wool” of daily life. By that homely phrase, she meant to evoke the ways routine experience dulls our senses and clouds our ability to see what is extraordinary about the world and our seemingly ordinary experiences in the world. Woolf described her “shocks” of recognition of that deeper reality beyond the wool as “a revelation of some order…a token of some real thing behind appearances.”

Many philosophers and mystics have described moments of enlightenment as the recognition of something transcendent in the ordinary. Here are Woolf ’s words:

…behind the cotton wool is hidden a pattern; we—I mean all human beings—are connected with this; that the whole world is a work of art; that we are parts of the work of art. Hamlet or a Beethoven quartet is the truth about this vast mass that we call the world.

But there is no Shakespeare, there is no Beethoven; we are the words; we are the music; we are the thing itself.

My own first reading of this passage provided exactly that “shock” of recognition Woolf describes. It was both poetry and music. It was also truth. Woolf was intensely aware that whatever obscured the clarity of her vision also dulled her capacities as a writer. For most of us, the cotton wool becomes a comfortable baffle that separates us from too much intensity or from too much clarity.

So why should we struggle with the “shocks”—the moments of being? Because, as Woolf reminds us, those are moments of insight into the truth of the world itself and our connection to that truth. Her richest novels were elaborations of short periods of time—hours, really—lived in full awareness of the smallest details. Through those unfolding hours and details, a larger vision emerges.

For decades to come, our new Performing Arts Center will echo with the words, music, and creativity of our community. Within this space, may there always be those magical moments that reawaken us to Woolf ’s deep truth that we are the words; we are the music; we are the thing itself. Moments of completion and accomplishment allow us to pause and recognize that we arrived at this satisfying place through the grace of an unceasing flow of human connections that awaken us to our fullest possibilities.

 

Girls and Boys Town Starts Construction

(Below) Guest visitors to a Girls and Boys Town Facility. Photograph and permission to publish provided by Girls and Boys Town.

Whenever I find myself describing our project for Girls and Boys Town, I often start by talking about the 1938 film Boys Town. Almost everyone has seen the Spencer Tracy portrayal of Father Edward Flanagan or remembers the famous line “he ain’t heavy, he’s my brother.” While overly sentimental, the MGM classic conveyed the Boys Town mission of creating an environment of genuine caring to teach both youths and families how to overcome problems, learn new skills and change their lives for the better.

Eighty eight years after the founding of the Omaha, Nebraska “home for wayward boys,” Father Flanagan’s vision lives on. Now a national organization with facilities across the United States, the recently renamed Girls and Boys Town is the leader in the treatment and care of abused, abandoned and neglected children.

Girls and Boys Town of Southern California (GBTSC), an affiliate of the national organization, was established in 1991. In 2004, the GBTSC facilities, which include the Long Beach Emergency Shelter and Assessment Center, the Price Family Campus in Los Angeles and the long-term residential facility at Trabuco Canyon in Orange County, provided assistance to over 2,000 children. In order to extend the reach of their services, GBTSC has begun construction on a new facility near Compton, CA.

Designed by Pica + Sullivan Architects, Ltd., the new emergency shelter and assessment center will be located on a 13⁄4-acre parcel of land adjacent to the I-710 (Long Beach) Freeway. It is the first phase of a planned two-phase development of the site. Modeled after the existing Long Beach facility, the new building will be two-stories, 10,000 square-ft and designed to service 16 youths at any one time. The plans include 8 dorm-style bedrooms, a community kitchen and dining room and a classroom. In the existing emergency shelters and assessment centers, the children range in age from 10 to 17 and the average stay is between two and four weeks.

The second phase will consist of five long-term residential homes. A married couple, known as Family- Teachers, will live in each home and, with the help of an assistant, ensure that the children’s physical, spiritual, emotional and treatment needs are met. The average stay in existing long-term residential homes is about 18 months. Administrative offices for both phases are being constructed as part of the first phase.

HomeAid America, a nonprofit corporation that creates partnerships to help people in need of shelter, has selected the Compton facility as one of their projects for 2005/2006. The Greater Los Angeles/Ventura Chapter of HomeAid America recruited Lennar Homes to serve as the Builder Captain for the new Girls and Boys Town shelter. Both HomeAid America and Lennar Homes have committed to secure construction trade partners that will provide contributions of in-kind services, labor and material.

The entitlement application process with the County of Los Angeles was led by Glendale, CA-based Novak & Associates. The project team leader is Nebraska-based Girls and Boys Town Assistant Director of Construction Scott Kardell. President and CEO of Girls and Boys Town of Southern California is Keith Diederich. Design team consultants to Pica + Sullivan Architects, Ltd. include Playa del Rey, CA-based Johnson-Leifield Structural Engineers and Fullerton, CA-based Craig Thomas Duncan Landscape Architecture.

The new emergency shelter and assessment center will greatly expand the Girls and Boys Town presence in Southern California. At the new facility, youths in crisis will find a family-style environment where they can learn the skills to overcome fear and control behaviors and to live and work with others in positive and productive ways. As Father Flanagan professed, “there are no bad boys. There is only bad environment, bad training, bad example, bad thinking.” The Compton facility is part of the legacy of creating good environments that have a lasting, positive impact on at-risk youths. The project is slated to be open in August 2006.

 

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