California State University at Long Beach is a dreamy landscape for a Southern California architectural photographer like me. The campus is lush with greenery and minutes from the Pacific Ocean, giving their diverse student body a glimpse of the ocean between classes. How great is that?

One of my longest photographer/designer relationships is with ZGF Architects, so it’s always a treat to see what they are working on. Here’s a peek into the work ZGF did to bring the College of Continuing and Professional Education at CSULB to life. 

Diversity and Design

In a census report from 2016, the student body at CSULB was 39% Hispanic/Latino, 21% Asian, 19% White, and 4% Black. When compared to the national population of enrolled college students – which is 55% White – it’s very clear that CSULB is a pretty special place. To honor this richness of cultures and a variety of backgrounds, ZGF Architects designed an in-house art feature that is as unique as the student body.

With a nod to the longboard culture synonymous to Long Beach, this installation is viewed as a rainbow when exiting the building (as seen above), a collage of flags when entering the building, and a wave of board when viewed head on. With just a glance, it quickly becomes an iconic representation of campus life and greater Long Beach. Photographing space specific art can serve as a time capsule of daily life and pop culture at the time of construction. I’m always seeking out opportunities like this to showcase the thoughtfulness of a space’s design. 

Thorough Thoroughfare

With almost constant hustle and bustle, college campuses are a gift to anyone’s energy level. This is great for me, as I have a reputation for high levels of enthusiasm and energy when on location. I like to think I fit right in among the students… 🙂

The College of Continuing and Professional Education served as the spine of the campus, as it sits in the pathway that connects the student housing to the educational spaces. Depending on the time of day, the energy levels were particularly high and particularly mellow, but there was an almost constant flow of longboards, bikes, and foot traffic. The intentional design of this building provided me ample opportunities to highlight people moving with purpose. As an architectural photographer that specializes in shared spaces, this pace was a true treat.

Balmy Climates and Longtime Clients

There are few better places to maximize indoor-outdoor space than in Southern California – except maybe the Hawaiian island of Oahu.  The first time I partnered with ZGF Architects, I was hired to photograph the University of Hawaii Cancer Center in 2013. That building was also steps from the ocean (I see a theme here in ZGF projects), featuring stunning glass walls from NanaWall and seven floors of open-air spaces that beautifully connected the man-made structures with the natural elements. This was my first time shooting NanaWall, and I reached out to them to share the shots of their gorgeous custom work in the picturesque setting of Oahu. Click here to revisit that space!

Fast forward to 2019: I’m happily still photographing ZGF Architects, and also have worked extensively with NanaWall to showcase their designs since that initial trip to Oahu. Lasting client relationships are a major priority for me, and these are two strong examples of that value.

Elements of the Elements 

I am always thrilled to photograph new spaces, as many of my clients are leading international architects working at the top of their game. As a designer, I imagine the work to be a balance of function and aesthetics. As an architectural photographer, my work is to balance the visual and human elements of any space.

In this building, this elemental balance was everywhere. The gorgeous SoCal sunshine around every corner, the nature-inspired color palate that echoed the trees and ocean, the open-air and open-floor concepts – all were there to make students feel more connected to the natural elements than to the steel and glass that is required of construction. The result? A calmer and more grounded learning atmosphere. I took great care to capture these moments of stillness without interfering in daily routines, while still allowing for the moments of movement as they organically happened.

Searching Out Great Eats!

Discovering the best places to eat while I’m on location

Since parking spots are always at a premium on campuses, we stayed on location for lunch and chose Outpost Grill. I am here to tell you – campus food has come a very long way since my college days! If you are a parent touring college campuses with your high schooler, know that you will not go hungry at CSULB.

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