Coil School for the Arts

  • area / size 37,442 sqft
  • Completed 2016
  • LPA designed the Coil School for the Arts to be a dynamic space across many disciplines in Riverside, California.

    The new Coil School for the Arts (CSA) connects college students with their local community and creates new synergies within the urban environment. The LEED Silver certified CSA building moves Riverside City Community College’s music program from their existing campus to the heart of downtown Riverside and features state-of-the-art learning environments and a 450-seat variable acoustics concert hall. Since opening, the venue has become a catalyst for redevelopment in the area, increasing student enrollment, attracting world-class musicians, and generating revenue for the college.

    The design team worked closely with the District, the city of Riverside, and multiple stakeholders in finding suitable uses for a dilapidated city block. The goal was to relocate academic programs from campus that would benefit from a downtown presence, promoting community engagement and reinvigorating the surrounding commercial and office uses. Daytime classes are complemented with evening concerts that activate the area and bring students and community members downtown. Most recently, the concert hall became the new home of the Riverside Philharmonic Orchestra.

    The form of the building is the result of a process of subtraction; adapting to its context, internal use and climate. At street level, the massing recedes to create a sheltered outdoor lobby for gathering before and after performances, eliminating the need (and cost) for additional enclosed and conditioned lobby space. On the southeast side, a courtyard with a trellised shade structure filters the harsh sun before bringing light inside the building.

    Openings were minimized on the perimeter walls in response to acoustics and the desert climate, while faculty offices were given protected windows overlooking an adjacent park. For the materiality of the building, the team implemented an “informed design” philosophy to create a structure that responds directly to its intended use and requires minimal maintenance. Heavy grouted masonry was selected as the main building material for its acoustical and thermal properties.

    One of the primary goals of the project was to create a state-of-the-art facility for the instruction and performance of musical arts, with acoustics being of utmost importance. Unlike single-purpose halls, the main performance space demanded sonic adaptability; from Jazz (dead end, maximizing sound absorption) to Choir (live end, four seconds of reverberation time). The solution was to conceive of the space itself as a tunable musical instrument. The team used the concept of the resonance chamber found in many string instruments, creating side cavities that can be mechanically opened or closed to control reverberation times. With deployable wall panels, mechanized drapery and a movable stage cloud, the hall is specifically tuned for every performance.

    With an understanding that students work for hours at a time to master their particular instrument, all of the practice rooms are coupled with large social spaces around a courtyard to make the long hours more enjoyable. The landscaped court offers a visual connection to nature, brings natural light deep into the adjacent rooms, and gives students an informal space to practice outdoors or gather to share skills and ideas.

    Architect: LPA
    General Contractor: Tilden-Coil Constructors
    Photography: Cris Costea