John Adams Middle School Performing Arts Center

  • area / size 46,000 sqft
  • Completed 2022
  • HGA Architects was tasked with completing the remarkable John Adams Middle School Performing Arts Center in Santa Monica, California.

    John Adams Middle School (JAMS) Performing Arts Center is a new, dynamic arts environment for the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District. Extending along the public face of the JAMS campus on Pearl Street in Santa Monica, California, the Center establishes a strong visual identity for the middle school campus. It also serves nearby Santa Monica College as a venue for its performing arts and educational programming.

    Designed to carefully integrate the distinct needs of both its middle school and college users, the Center provides spaces for diverse student populations within a setting that invites the surrounding community to feel equally at home. The openness of the Center’s overall design reflects SMMUSD’s goal of creating a thriving, active hub that promotes community building around the arts and facilitates interaction between students across the district, faculty, artists and the surrounding residential community.

    The new Center features a 750-seat auditorium tailored to meet the needs of the notable JAMS music program. A large, flexible rehearsal space and adjacent exterior terrace complements the auditorium, supporting music and dance as well as hosting community events and classroom functions. Tucked away at the edge of campus, the multi-purpose community venue hosts multiple school and community events daily. All of this promotes human engagement and connections, while improving institutional transparency.

    Practice rooms, back of house spaces, dedicated classrooms, offices and libraries for orchestra, band and choir classes round out the Center’s 34,000 square feet of indoor space. Performance, lobby and rehearsal spaces open to an outdoor courtyard that takes advantage of the temperate climate to create an additional 12,000 square feet of flexible exterior spaces for informal gathering.

    Integrated into the community’s social and transportation network, many amenities, bus routes, and dedicated bike lanes support the project’s expansive constituency. Though primarily serving the middle school as a Performing Arts Center, it supports presentations across the educational spectrum. Collaboration with Santa Monica College and local neighborhood and business partners identified space needs and emphasized flexibility. The main hall utilizes specialized acoustic technology that supports a range of performances and presentations, from a single student soloist to a local recovering meeting, to the presentation of a new product roll out by a local business.

    The overall design acknowledges the character of the existing, post-war JAMS campus, which is defined by simple linear, volumetric structures connected by a series of covered walkways and interconnected courtyards that serve a range of uses from circulation, to play space, to learning gardens as well as outdoor classrooms and art making spaces. It also considers the various fronts of the new Center including balancing the entry identity on Pearl Street to connect seamlessly to Santa Monica College while providing the Center an externally facing front door that respects and complements the iconic Koenig Eisenberg entryway.

    Design: HGA Architects
    Contractor: Bernard Brothers
    Photography: Eric Staudenmaier