Chico State, Arts and Humanities Building

CSU, Chico’s mission is to prepare students to assume responsibility in a democratic community and to be useful members of a global society. The new Arts & Humanities building supports this mission by making the liberal arts — long associated with fostering independent, critical thinkers required to ensure a free and democratic society — central to campus life and to the City of Chico. This project does dual duty of serving as an important new gateway between the campus and downtown Chico while completing an historic quad. Its diverse program — art galleries, studios, ceramics, performing arts, digital arts, learning labs, and offices — reflects the interdisciplinary promise of students with diverse interests overlapping intellectually and socially to address the great challenges and opportunities of our time.

The liberal arts building connects the University’s historic quad, Kendall Lawn, to the city’s busy First Street Promenade with a public breezeway and shared program that connects students with one another and the broader community. The breezeway intersects with a courtyard, or “mixer” around which the diverse program was organized. Classrooms and studio spaces, visible through ample windows facing the courtyard, put learning on display and connect the different programs. Envisioned as a “mixer”, the courtyard is where people will congregate, giving the building and the campus its vibe and offering students a sense of ownership and pride in place.

The new building takes cues from its historic, existing campus context and identity while imparting a modem sensibility commensurate with the expectations of 21st century learners. Flowing under a glassy north wing, the breezeway is flanked by a brick and stucco tower and a solid base, which complements the historic Romanesque structures lining Kendall Lawn. With the second- and third-floor learning environments visible from the quad through glass walls, the new liberal arts building integrates teaching and arts with campus life. On the sides facing downtown Chico, the building is massed to step back from the street above a first-level brick base and to meet the sky in a robust cornice that announces the building and the University. An inset panel at the base carries a commissioned art piece to enhance the pedestrian experience.

One of the primary materials is a play on the “Chico mix,” or the brick that has been used in the Romanesque structures of the quad. The design team, in response to the campus leadership’s desire to use brick, proposed pulling out the ebony within the mix and using only that color on the building. The ebony contrasts nicely with the lighter stucco and curtain wall to respect legacy with a modem bent.

A great learning environment is nothing if it is not comfortable, healthy, and efficient, and the new liberal arts building at CSU, Chico, targeting LEED Silver, is a new campus model for environmental stewardship, wellness and resource conservation. Energy efficiency strategies include high performance glazing, a high albedo roof, demand-based control ventilation and a dual duct, dual fan HVAC system. The project uses subsurface retention areas to treat and capture storm water prior to its release from the site, decreasing the post site development run-off quantity and treating stormwater before it leaves the site. These retention elements allow for infiltration, reducing off-site runoff and recharging the aquifer. The building is constructed with 10% recycled content materials and 10% extracted regional materials. All wood used for the building is FSC-certified.

The Arts & Humanities building is a model for design excellence achieved within the tight schedule and financial constraints of publicly funded projects. Design excellence was made possible by a truly integrated process, with the entire team — CSU, Chico leadership, the architect, engineers, and builder —working hand in hand to leverage cost savings and efficiencies to the benefit of design, and to the benefit of the students, faculty, and staff who will use this building every day.

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