With so many interesting details and forward-thinking design elements from AC Martin, I had the best time photographing the new Cal State Fullerton Learning Center at the Pollak Library! Busy spaces energize me, and I find college campuses contain a unique balance of earnest hopefulness and hesitant nervousness.
But first…a brief SoCal architecture lesson:
AC Martin can be credited for shaping much of Los Angeles and Orange County’s visual landscapes – many of which have inspired my work over the years. They are responsible for such notable landmarks as Our Lady Of Angels Cathedral, the Ventura County Courthouse, LA City Hall and countless other collegiate, retail, and corporate spaces. I always find it a true treat to work with them!
Let’s take a walk through the center together (quietly please – studying in progress!) to check it all out.
A Home Away From Home
Remember those rigid plastic chairs with folding desk arms? Yeah…they’re a thing of the past.
Higher learning design is all about versatility! My goal is always to photograph a space unobtrusively, and I must admit – furniture that moves smoothy and quietly certainly helps in that pursuit. I loved that the furniture was easy to rearrange to allow space for group activities to gather, or quickly create a private study nook.
As someone who occasionally forgets their phone charger, I appreciated that the chairs and desks are all power enabled to keep batteries fully charged and handheld devices happy! These types of details are some of my favorites when learning about a new space, and I always make sure to capture them in use.
Also, speaking of feeling fully charged – I quickly noticed that this space provides students a comfortable and quiet place to spend time between classes (aka, nap). With so many commuter students, there’s lots of downtime between classes to take advantage of those comfortable couches.
I found this space to have a great energy that ebbed and flowed with the surges of students. Since this is a college campus, this had everything to do with the time of day (spoiler alert: no matter what time or place in history, college students are not really morning people).
It’s a lot of fun capturing the seamless blend of old and new design trends, and I found the contrast to be an interesting ‘time capsule’ of sorts The Learning Center is a bright and modern space right in the middle of a predominately subdued mid-century campus. At first glance, you might not even notice the shelves of paper books behind the sleek circulation desk, but I promise you they are there – classic book smell and all!
Bathroom Breaks and Local Gossip
Bathrooms are traditionally where men and women disappear to have a quiet moment alone or share a secret word of gossip, and I am glad to report that CSFU’s gender neutral bathrooms keep this chatty tradition alive!
This gender neutral space balances the social and more private aspects of escaping to the bathroom with full-length doors and a decidedly neutral aesthetic. I saw CSFU’s prioritization of safety and comfort for all students as a clear sign of progress and inclusivity: as a father of two, that gives me a great deal of hope for the future.
There are also 8 community rooms dedicated to socially conscious groups. With these rooms, any club that might feel marginalized are given a private space to encourage safe, candid, and open discussions during their meetings.
These students will be our future leaders, so let’s make sure they have ample room to speak their minds!
A Model Student
Whenever I photograph in a school setting, I am inevitably interrupting someone’s routine or breaking someone’s concentration. I certainly try to work quickly and quietly, but often I am up against the clock of a class schedule and it can be a challenge to find students or faculty that is willing to stay in one place to accommodate my work and my client’s vision.
My client and I often decide to bring in model subjects to busy locations as a win/win situation: I am able to shoot the intended nature and energy of each space, and students are able to go about their lives as usual.
Discovering the best places to eat while I’m on location
When I photograph a university, I usually don’t want to leave campus for lunch and risk loosing my early bird parking space. So, we ate on campus for this one.
BUT if we did venture out I would have tried Rockin Sushi – please let me know if you have been there? Menu recommendations are always welcomed!