Photo by Benny Chan/fotoworks
project: FIDM San Diego
client: Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising
location: San Diego
designer: Clive Wilkinson Architects
Clive Wilkinson Architects designed the Orange County campus of the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising (FIDM) in 2001, and ever since, the West Hollywood-based architecture firm has enjoyed an uninterrupted association with the preeminent West Coast school for fashion and related design disciplines. Their 14 projects include a library for the main campus in downtown Los Angeles and, most recently, a new school in San Diego. They also are currently preparing an extension of the San Francisco campus. San Diego is the smallest of the four FIDM branches, and it occupies the entire third floor of a high-rise office building in a newly revitalized area of downtown. But it has its own unique character, while playing variations on themes that were first explored in Los Angeles.
“The internal landscape is student-centered, supporting their experience through openness, transparency, and user-friendly spaces for work and recreation,” says Clive Wilkinson. “Vibrant public spaces contrast with quiet, neutral classrooms and study areas.” The library is a mix of both spaces, encouraging students to study there rather than just use the books. An axial concourse undulates and eddies, expanding into social gathering areas. The palette of beige and yellow tones evokes the dry, sun-baked desert that surrounds San Diego.
Those themes are on display in the expansive reception area, which doubles as a place to hang out and opens onto an outdoor terrace. The red birch soffit generates a sense of warmth and intimacy but is cut away to reveal the raw ceiling with its white-painted service ducts. To one side, a band of yellow defines the glass-walled library, dipping down to form a counter. The first of several panels by FIDM graphic designer Miwako Feuer provides a point of focus. Glass-walled classrooms flank a student lounge where sheets of metal are cut and bent to shade suspended lighting. “We were inspired by Elizabethan ruffles, an allusion that worked well for a fashion school, and the metal is an inexpensive way of achieving sculptural depth overhead.” An A/V-shaped niche of white drywall painted lipstick red on the inner face is given a glossy finish to evoke the southern California culture of cars and surf boards, and it frames a counter full of computer monitors plus sofas for laptop users.
Annie Johnson, vice president of FIDM, has worked closely with Wilkinson over the past eight years. “Clive’s use of color, along with high-concept architecture and interior design, awakens and challenges students to be creative,” she says. “As a design college, what more could we ask?”
“It’s an interesting integration of educational materials, writing surfaces, and display that’s integral with the architecture. This project makes me feel like architecture matters in the process of learning. Since it is a design school, it is appropriate that it embody a passion for design and it does so boldly! Color and form create dynamic geometries. The design is consistent with what the stimulus-craving, next generation students are seeking.”