Designer Forum - November 2012
By Deborah Elliott
San Diego’s Thomas Jefferson School of Law came to ID Studios with a vision of a new era in law school design, one where social, interactive and “human-centered” was in, cutting-edge technology was a must, and environmental responsibility was a top priority. ID Studios was tasked with creating a warm, clean and inviting interior experience to support the serious pursuit of the study of law.
Incorporating influences from the ample natural beauty of the San Diego region into the design and finish materials made the task simple for the ID Studios team (Deborah Elliott, Lorraine Morgan, Andrew Fordham and Mary Nelson). Design elements reflect imagery of the bay, ocean shores and cliffs, as well as regional architecture, parks and mountainscapes.
A variety of natural, earth-colored stones and textural materials are woven through a vibrant color palette of the interior design. These materials were specified with sustainability in mind. The project is expected to receive LEED NC (new construction) Gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council, making it one of a small number of law schools, and the first in southern California, to achieve this status.
INFLUENCES BOTH ANCIENT AND MODERN
The excavation of the site led to several extraordinary paleontological discoveries, including the well-preserved remains of a Columbian mammoth, along with a baleen whale, other animals and many layers of fossilized marine life and shells. The client and the construction manager worked with the San Diego Museum of Natural History to encapsulate, document and relocate the remains.
As the main focal point of the lobby, the feature stair creates a fluid vertical connection reminiscent of a pure white sail flowing through the first three floors, providing visual connection to classroom floors. Constructed from the top down with a specially fabricated metal structure, the stair treads are clad with Angelica Travertine from the Andes Mountains in Peru.
Surrounding the staircase, the flooring for each of the main traffic areas for the first two floors is travertine punctuated with a custom terrazzo mix designed to create the image of a sail. Not only are these surfaces durable for high traffic areas, but the terrazzo grounds the school to the site by integrating many of the non museum-quality shells and fossils—consisting mainly of 300,000 year old scallop shells—found during the excavation.
Nestled at the foot of the staircase, a built-in plant-scape and seating area welcomes students and visitors. A change in flooring can create a feeling of space, and the design team generated this effect in the seating area through the use of a custom area rug from Masland Contract. The richly colored rug follows the curve of the plant-scape architecture and frames the seating area with a sunburst design.
ACTIVE AND FUNCTIONAL SPACES
The main classroom and locker corridors are defined with generous central circulation and flanked with active meeting space, locker areas and touchdown locations.
While commercial carpet is routinely selected due to its durable nature, the wide variety of patterns and colors provided by carpet manufactures gives designers a good opportunity to bring life to an otherwise transitional space. Carpet flows through the law school corridors in an organic wave-like form, with a blue burst of Atlas Carpet’s Inizio across a field of two Lees patterns, Jacket and Sweater.
Classrooms are clean and warm, functional in layout, and modest in design. Gently angled, overlapping ceiling panels create focus at front and center while carpet brings the space to life with color and pattern using Atlas Carpet’s Athos pattern.
The idea for the law library was to capture the iconic natural imagery of San Diego’s ocean, waves, sand and sun. The circulation desk, a major focal point, echoes this imagery with design elements and materials that flow in concentric circles, guiding students to the desk, while bookshelves and lighting fixtures mimic ocean bluffs and seagulls.
Hard surface flooring was used around the circulation desk for its durability. The design theme is reflected in the smooth pebbles of the border, which is surrounded by subtle sand-like textures in Refin Ceramiche’s Fabula porcelain tile and the same custom terrazzo mix used in the lobby. Organic and wave-like shapes and forms were used to embody the ocean imagery throughout the space; Shaw’s aptly named Surf broadloom was a perfect fit to reinforce the design intent, reflecting the sail shape introduced in the lobby as well as bringing a soft surface for the acoustical qualities required in a library space.
The student lounge exudes energy and youth, and provides a variety of seating styles to accommodate different uses by the students. A central form takes inspiration from the great banyan tree in Balboa Park and provides an inviting canopy to sit under. A bamboo-wrapped low wall surrounds the area to bring a sense of enclosure and intimacy.
In the study areas, Shaw’s Vivid carpet tile echoes the abstract interpretation of a tree with its subtle leaf like pattern, while Nora Rubber flooring was used in the food service areas. Both the carpet tile and the rubber flooring lend themselves to easy clean up in areas of high use and where spills are most likely to occur.
ECHOING NAUTICAL AND ARCHITECTURAL MOTIFS
Multi-tiered round soffits serve as visual anchors above the concentric circular reception desk and simultaneously mimic the form of underwater air bubbles overhead. Full height textural acrylic privacy panels add visual warmth and spatial boundaries to the open lobby.
The ability of flooring to subtly differentiate between spaces was taken advantage of in this administrative area with the combination of two partner patterns by Shaw to create delineation between public lobby and private corridor spaces. The public lobby flooring was selected for its subtle patterning and the carpet tiles were installed to give the pattern a linear feel to encourage flow, in contrast to the accent carpet tiles selected for the more private areas.
Inspired by the craftsman style of architecture prevalent in San Diego, the moot courtroom features rich wood finishes and strong geometric forms. The design is complemented by carpet in a warm texture (Lees’ Ground Strata), which provides the foundation for the architecture of the court without drawing attention from the exquisite woodwork featured in the room.
The faculty and staff lounge and exterior terrace on the eighth floor is surrounded by city and bay views. The light-infused glass surrounding the space is made personal with club chairs and warm finishes. Cool carpet in the slate grey tones of Lees’ Jacket offers a calm setting for the faculty and staff, while sculptural wood ceiling elements overhead capture the building’s roofline. The space offers faculty and staff a place to get away, decompress, connect with colleagues or simply to enjoy the dramatic vistas of San Diego.
The boardroom features a variety of natural materials. This includes jade green marble from China’s Fujian province used for the table and credenza surfaces, as well as warm wood paneling that highlights the height and shape of the iconic chevron shaped roof. Teak was selected because it is mainly used for building ships, which echoes the nautical elements used in the design throughout the building.
The flooring in the boardroom is a mix of both hard and soft surfaces. A swath of Caesar’s quartzite-like porcelain tile, called Absolute, was used to create an elegant yet durable pathway from the faculty lounge to the exterior stone-clad deck. Shaw’s plush Spun carpet tile reflects the nature of the special school, as well as the community events and functions held there.
Overall, the new 178,000 square foot campus succeeds in integrating technology, sustainability and a welcoming collaborative environment, and is a worthy addition to the law school community. With its celebration of the region’s rich cultural and natural heritage, the Thomas Jefferson School of Law is also an exceptional addition to downtown San Diego.
Copyright 2012 Floor Focus