SFSU LCA BECA Bldg Exteriors Cavagnero 72 ©Henrik Kam 2021

Mark Cavagnero Associates adapts SF State media arts building to a fickle microclimate

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Architect: Mark Cavagnero Associates
Location: San Francisco
Completion Date: October 2021

An amalgamation of glass, concrete, and steel coalesce to form the George and Judy Marcus Hall for the Liberal and Creative Arts, a single, virtuous structure comprising several boxy volumes at San Francisco State University. San Francisco– and Paris-based Mark Cavagnero Associates paid careful attention to the Bay Area’s temperamental microclimate when designing the 75,000-square-foot academic facility, occupied by the university’s Broadcast and Electronic Communications Arts Department.

Programmatically, the building has a lot to offer: multidisciplinary classrooms, high-definition and 4K broadcasting studios, sound studios, editing suites, and a 100-seat viewing venue. These demands tasked the design and engineering team with creating responsive spaces with strong acoustics and privacy that also promote openness and transparency.

The architects chose concrete and lightweight aluminum for their durability against the elements and soundproofing qualities. (Henrik Kam)

The design pairs a chunky concrete base with a rectangular volume composed of lightweight aluminum panels made from recycled matter. In selecting materials for the project Cavagnero considered the weather and temperature conditions of San Francisco, which are generally mild, however, given the site’s proximity to the Pacific Ocean, the subsequent flow of marine air, and the always impending entrance of the city’s world famous fog, they settled on aluminum insulated panels and a horizontal aluminum sunshade for their noncorrosive nature.

Concrete, on the other hand, is an excellent insulator of sound, making it an ideal material choice for a building where audio and video is paramount. While the gray massing forms a base and obvious material complement on the exterior, its added presence inside creates a rugged, industrial backdrop for the production labs, sound stages, and broadcasting studios.

white aluminum facade panels with shades and concrete base
The lightweight aluminum panels minimize thermal gain on all faces of the building. (Henrik Kam)

While energy performance on the building envelope was top of mind in the selection of building materials and systems the aesthetic value of the structure was also considered. The white aluminum rain screen panels are arranged across the facade in vertical orientation creating a crisscrossing effect with the concrete volumes. “We also liked the interplay of the light metal skin with the clear glass lifted on a concrete base to give the building an overall sense of legibility,” Mark Cavagnero Associates Principal John Fung told AN.

Added energy performance comes from the continuous insulted core fabricated within the aluminum panels. The lightweight material minimizes thermal gain on all faces of the building, but particularly so on the west facade where the aluminum panels have been positioned to account for the north facing windows that further reduce solar gain.

“The generally mild San Francisco climate offered an opportunity for passive cooling strategies,” Fung detailed.

sun beams on white aluminum facade panels
Sensor-operated louvers within the radiators warm outside air that can be used to heat the interiors on cooler days. (Henrik Kam)

Operable windows provide a source of natural ventilation, while sensor-operated louvers within the radiators warm fresh air to heat the interiors on days when the temperature is lower.

The George and Judy Marcus Hall building targeted LEED Gold certification and was designed in line with the university’s sustainability plan. Around the building, landscape architect SWA Group used native, low maintenance, drought-tolerant plants to reduce water usage.

interior view of classroom with concrete walls and computer desks
The concrete used on the exterior continues inside to the classroom and studio spaces. (Henrik Kam)

Social distancing restrictions from the pandemic and supply chain interruptions posed challenges during the construction of the building and extended the anticipated schedule. Despite delivery delays, once the materials arrived on site, installation was realized swiftly. To keep costs within the university’s stringent budget, the design team collaborated closely with the general contractor’s pre-construction team and the vendors throughout the design development process.

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