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FIDM San Diego Campus | Notes of Interest

This project is a wonderful example of design as a statement. The Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising (FIDM) is a private college with a thirty-five-year history of offering degrees directed at placing students in fashion, design and business. Having completed three previous major projects, the college asked the architect to create a new San Diego campus that represents the school’s progressive attitude towards education. The result is a space that is both non-traditional and tangibly centered around the value of design, appropriate enough for a school with just such a focus.

The project occupies the entire third floor of a high-rise office building. Comprising approximately 30,000 square feet, the space needed to accommodate all of the elements of the school’s main campus within the smaller footprint of a regional campus. To achieve this, the school is designed as a sequence of zones: a public entry zone; an educational zone housing classrooms, the library, and technology resources; and an administration zone for the school’s staff.

While efficiency required the grouping of the various program areas, the architect’s focus was on creating interaction between these spaces. A looped circulation path encircles the floor plan, and generous public areas and hallway lounge settings create opportunities for spontaneous interaction. A strong color palette drawn from the area’s native vegetation appears throughout the space. Additionally, a comprehensive graphic program that is integrated with the architecture connotes the function of spaces and leads users through the floor. Each quadrant of the floor is invested with its own identity to eliminate the perception of corridors that characterize many educational spaces. Hallway spaces further disappear due to the use of glazing even in normally sequestered spaces like classrooms and the library. While each area is self-defined through its color and form, integration between the spaces is very strong throughout.

Overall, the vibrant colors, textures and geometries present in the space provide a clear and active understanding of the site, and the result of this sophisticated strategy is the ever-present affirmation of the importance of design. The spirit of the school is always on display.

Additional Credits

  • General Contractor: Steiner Construction
  • Engineer: KPFF Consulting Engineers ; Walsh Engineers
  • Additional Contractor: Berg Electric; Brian Cox Mechanical
  • Photo Credit: © Benny Chan/Fotoworks

FIDM San Diego Campus

Jury Comments

A playful, inspiring environment is created through skillful use of color and scale. What might otherwise be a repetitious or simple environment is differentiated by unique spatial moments and interesting use of materials.

There is a cohesion to the space—despite the use of a wide variety of materials—due to the way the design interlocks the elements: the use of space defining space, no corridors, pockets of color keyed to a function, and lots of transparency moving light around the events, creates a learning environment that is what it espouses.... design.

2011 Institute Honor Awards for Interior Architecture Jury

  • John Ronan, AIA, (Chair)
  • John Ronan Architects
  • Chicago
  • Jaime Canaves, FAIA
  • Florida International University-
  • School of Architecture
  • Miami
  • Margaret Kittinger, AIA
  • Beyer Blinder Belle Architects
  • New York City
  • Brian Lewis
  • The Capital Group Companies
  • Irvine, Calif.
  • Brian Malarkey, AIA
  • Kirksey
  • Houston

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